Monday, August 9, 2010

Nations Encourage Lionfish Tournaments

Lionfish are native to the western and central Pacific Ocean, but are considered to be an invasive species in the Atlantic Ocean where populations have been established from North Carolina to South America.

They were likely first released in Florida waters in the mid-1980s. Since then, the species has spread rapidly. Scientists and public officials are seriously concerned at the effect  lionfish are having on reef ecosystems, since this predator is capable of rapid population growth and outcompeting native fish for food and territory.

“This study offers us the first target for fishing and other local control efforts such as lionfish derbies,” says Lad Akins, director of operations for the Reef Environmental and Education Foundation, an organization of divers and marine enthusiasts who are working to combat the lionfish problem.

The effort to fish down the species has already begun. Caribbean nations such as the Turks and Caicos Islands are encouraging widespread fishing for lionfish by instituting year-long tournaments with cash prizes for the most lionfish caught.

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