September 11, 2012
LIONFISH UPDATE: Reader Chuck Wingo emails:
Just got back from a 10 day diving trip to the Bahamas, and thought you’d be interested to know that the lion fish population there is down noticeably from a year ago. Last year our group caught about 50 during a one week trip, but this year, on a ten day trip, we barely caught 20. When we questioned the captain of our boat he told us that we weren’t an isolated case: divers all over the Bahamas have been reporting fewer lion fish all year.
No one seems to know why. Popular explanations include divers taking more, and sharks and other predators learning just how tasty they are, but both of these are just speculation. Sharks and groupers at least seem to have developed a taste for them; our group had about 5 taken right off our spears: one by a grouper and the others by gray reef sharks.
It would be nice if the lower population is permanent, but it’s obviously too early to say if this is permanent. On the other hand we all missed having a big lion fish cook out; we barely got enough for some nice lion fish tacos.
One bit of government policy isn’t helping; the Bahamas have marine parks and no take zones, and the ban on hunting in these areas includes the lion fish. We all noticed a larger population in these areas, which may support the theory that hunting is the primary reason the population is down elsewhere, but if an invasive species has a refuge zone we’ll never solve the problem.
Obviously this is an anecdote, not real data, but I’ll be interested if I start hearing similar reports from other areas.
I certainly saw fewer this year than last as well — but more when I went to areas that aren’t dived much. Which supports the theory that lionfish hunting/eating is having an impact. In other words, all is proceeding as I have foreseen.