February 6, 2009
Minister: Keep eyes out for Red Lion Fish

Government officials in the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries are taking steps to educate and inform Vincentians about the possible threat of the Red Lion Fish, after it was discovered that the carnivorous predator could be in our waters.{{more}}

Following the front page exclusive of last week’s edition of SEARCHLIGHT, a press briefing was called by Minister of Agriculture Montgomery Daniel and Chief Fisheries Officer Raymond Ryan on Monday at the Fisheries Conference Room in the Kingstown Fish Market.

Daniel indicated that although a reported sighting of the venomous fish in waters off Carriacou last month was unconfirmed, it was necessary to inform the general public of the potential threat of the species to human health, marine species and the environment.

“We must take a proactive approach to all invasive species which would potentially affect our economy and food security.

“We are requesting the assistance of the general public by reporting any sightings of this fish. Whenever you see this fish in our waters, we want you to report it,” Daniel said.

Minister Daniel indicated that his Ministry was favourably considering issuing rewards to persons who capture the fish off our shores.

Although the Ministry is supporting its capture, they are warning fishermen and divers of the hazard of coming into contact with the brightly coloured aquarium ‘pet’ can cause.

Ryan reminded the press gathering that the venomous dorsal, pelvic and anal spines can cause severe pain, nausea, breathing and heart difficulties and in some cases death if they penetrate human skin.

He advised that persons who are injured by this fish are to seek medical attention as soon as possible.

The Chief Fisheries Officer also highlighted the effects of the Lion Fish on the marine environment:

“Lion Fish are voracious predators and prey on small fishes and crustaceans. The survival of other reef fish gets slashed by about 80%, setting the stage for algae to overwhelm our coral reefs. This can have serious implications for our marine ecosystems throughout the region,” Ryan said.

Ryan also noted that the invasion of various reefs in the Bahamas by the fish has caused a number of ecotourism problems.

He said that his division is currently conducting research to determine if enemies of the red Lion Fish should be brought to the area to combat the impending menace.

The rapidly multiplying fish can reproduce once a month, with each female laying up to 30,000 eggs at once, enabling it to spread quickly in the waters they inhabit.

Meanwhile, Minister Daniel made the appeal for Vincentians and the general public to be on the look out for the fish, and report all sightings to the Ministry.