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INVASIVE LIONFISH SIGHTED IN ANTIGUAN WATERS
Wednesday 4th May 2011

Photo by Wolcott Henry.

The Fisheries Division of Antigua and Barbuda has its first confirmed sighting of the invasive Lionfish (Pterois volitans). The specimen was brought to the Division by a commercial fisherman who caught the fish in a trap at a depth of 84 feet. The specimen had a weight of 7.4 oz, and measured 9.6 inches in length.

The fact that the species has been confirmed in our waters is of serious concern to the Fisheries Division, but not surprising since this species was confirmed in the neighboring island of St. Kitts in October, 2010. The confirmation of this species in our waters is troubling because of the negative impact that such invasive species can have on our fragile coral reef ecosystems, local fish populations and fishing communities. 

The Lionfish is a voracious predator that preys upon a variety of fish species including many commercially caught demersals and reef species that help maintain healthy coral reefs.  With few natural predators in the area, the species has been allowed to proliferate and establish itself in coral and rocky reefs around the Caribbean. 

The spines of the red lionfish are venomous, thus divers and commercial fishers must exercise caution if they encounter the species.  The red lionfish is not to be confused with the native Atlantic species, the spotted scorpionfish, which is also commonly found in shallow reefs and bottom habitats. 

Throughout the region, efforts to eradicate the red lionfish have been met with little success, thus most fisheries authorities have employed measures for control rather than eradication.

Anyone who suspects they have encountered the red Lionfish is asked to report those sightings to the Fisheries Division immediately at 462-6106/1372 or via email at fisheriesantigua@gmail.com

After working hours, persons are asked to contact Mr. Ashton Williams at 771-8818.  Do not return specimens to the sea, but carefully contain them and bring them to the Fisheries Division’s offices at Point Wharf.

More information on the Lionfish can be obtained here.

 


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