By: Rebekah Marcarelli firstname.lastname@example.org
Jamaica has reported a noticeable decline in the population of invasive lionfish, which have been putting coral reefs and local species in danger for years.
About four years ago a national campaign started working to cut down on the number of lionfish in the region,the Associated Press reported. Since then Jamaica’s National Environment and Planning Agency has noticed a 66 percent drop in species sighted in the coastal waters.
The dramatic drop in lionfish could be thanks to local residents developing a taste for them. The fish have spines that can deliver a “painful sting” which has caused fishermen to shy away from them in the past.
“After learning how to handle them, the fishermen have definitely been going after them harder, especially spear fishermen. I believe persons here have caught on to the whole idea of consuming them,” Dayne Buddo, a Jamaican marine ecologist who focuses on marine invaders at the Caribbean island’s University of the West Indies, told the AP.
The invasive fish species is believed to have been introduced to the area by pet trade. The fish eat up many of the smaller local fish and destroy precious coral reefs.
“I don’t think we’ll ever get rid of it, but I think for the most part we can control it, especially in marine protected areas where people are going after it very intensively and consistently,” Buddo said.
A study released in January found that in reefs where lionfish were kept below “threshold density” native fish populations increased anywhere between 50 and 70 percent, and Oregon State University news release reported. In regions where there had been no effort to fight the invasive species local fish continued to disappear.
“Many invasions such as lionfish are occurring at a speed and magnitude that outstrips the resources available to contain and eliminate them,” the researchers wrote, the news release reported. “Our study is the first to demonstrate that for such invasions, complete extirpation is not necessary to minimize negative ecological changes within priority habitats.”