The lionfish, an invasive predator from the Indo Pacific currently wreaking havoc on Caribbean and South American coral reef fish populations, was first introduced to the region through the exotic aquarium trade. These beautiful carnivorous fish have characteristic orange and red stripes, spotted and striped pelvic and caudal fins, and flamboyantly colored wide-spreading pectoral fins, which they use to corral prey. These fins, though possibly to blame as the instigators of the devastating invasion, are now offering a new way to help control the rampant spread of the predatory fish.
Last week, in collaboration with CEI, the Eleuthera Arts and Cultural Center hosted a Lionfish Jewelry Making and Awareness Workshop, the first of its kind in The Bahamas. Local artists Shorlette Francis and Sterline Morley joined the Arts and Cultural Center’s Audrey Carey and CEI’s Dr. Jocelyn Curtis-Quick of the Lionfish Research and Education Program to put on the event. The collected attendees, a mix of professional artists, handicraft enthusiasts, and interested community members, learned about the arrival of the fish in the Caribbean in the mid-1980’s and its subsequent spread. After sampling fried lionfish and perusing lionfish crafts and jewelry by local artists for inspiration and construction techniques, the group tried their hand at creating wearable pieces from the fish’s unique fins.
Participants rolled up their sleeves and got creative, making beautiful necklace and earring pieces. Fins were varnished in their natural state or painted for more varied coloration; they could be trimmed, layered, or beaded. Enthusiasm about the finished products and the versatility of lionfish fins as a material led to many questions about where to get more of them, and will hopefully work to increase local demand for the fishing of these problematic fish. Be on the lookout for more jewelry workshops around Eleuthera, and for beautiful lionfish pieces to purchase. Do your part against the invasion by eating and wearing lionfish!
For the Island School summer term, six students had the opportunity to work with Dr. Jocelyn Curtis-Quick researching invasive lionfish. In one day, the students became professionals at cast netting, dissecting lionfish, conducting behavior observations, and data analysis. They dissected fourteen lionfish, with body fat ranging from% 0.58- %2.1 and the discovered of various prey items in the stomach including crabs, grunts, and blue headed wrasse. Shockingly, there were twelve fish in one stomach; proving the voracious eating habits of the lionfish. The students are now knowledgeable invasive lionfish researchers. Of course, the students love to eat lionfish and recommend everyone do their part to stop the invasion by eating them.
Island School communications assistant and IS alumnus Will Strathmann (F’08) created this video on the invasive species of lionfish for the Mitigating the Threats of Invasive Alien Species in the Insular Caribbean (MTIASIC) Project video competition. Please enjoy the video while we await results from the competition!
When Island School alum Skylar Miller (S’03) returned to Eleuthera in the summer of 2010, she was looking for an opportunity that bridged her passion for teaching concepts of marine biology with field-based research. “When I heard the Cape Eleuthera Institute’s mission of ‘Research, Education, and Outreach’ I thought: That’s perfect. That’s exactly what I want to do,” Miller reflected. She has since become a pioneer for that mission. Her collaborative work has resulted in the creation of CEI’s Lionfish Research and Education Program, in partnership with the Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) and Simon Fraser University (SFU).
The scope of her work is expanding into the future, with many exciting opportunities to forge new partnerships and extend lionfish programming throughout the Caribbean. “Lionfish invasion is a regional issue,” she described. “There are lots of countries similar to The Bahamas’ situation, politically, economically, socially. We need to consider how we can learn from one another. Looking at communication and how we can share ideas is going to be important as we move forward, as we figure out a solution to the lionfish problem.”
This fall, Miller will begin graduate work at the University of the West Indies, Barbados. Continue reading →
The next “Lionfish Collecting and Handling” Workshop organized by REEF in collaboration with the SPAW RAC will take place on May 15-18, 2012 at the Cape Eleuthera Institue. The workshop is a 2-day workshop focusing on hands-on collecting/handling and monitoring for key resource managers or their official designee. This workshop is the second of 3 workshops that will be held in the region and funded in part by a NFWF (National Fish and Wildlife Foundation) grant. This workshop is by invite only. Please contact Skylar Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Since its creation just over one year ago, the Lionfish Research and Education Program (LREP) at CEI has strived to become a hub for lionfish work in the Caribbean. Recently, LREP has taken some exciting steps toward reaching this status! Just last week, CEI hosted three producers and videographers from ZED (www.zed.fr), a major French documentary company that is working on gathering footage for an upcoming TV series featuring invasive lionfish. Specifically, the documentary team was interested in learning about Bahamian lionfish research and management initiatives. Luckily, visiting scientist, and partner of LREP, Nicola Smith was able to come over from Nassau to support the week’s activities and be featured in the film! Nicola is the lead coordinator for the Bahamian-wide lionfish research project that operates under the Bahamian Department of Marine Resources (DMR) and partners with CEI.
ZED producer, Jerome Segur, sound engineer, Olivier Pioda, and underwater videographer (and former member of Jacque Cousteau’s prestigious dive team!)Didier Noirot, joined Nicola and LREP researchers in the field to get a closer look at lionfish and to better understand the project’s research objectives. Continue reading →
The first week of research was a big week for the Lionfish research project. We oriented ourselves to our goals, methods, and systems. We discussed what an invasive species means, the invasion of lionfish, their life cycles, and their anatomy. On Thursday, we dissected lionfish in the lab. Our project began with learning external anatomy, including how to prevent lionfish stings. Next cut their bellies and look into the internal anatomy. We saw their key organs, and even their super stretch stomach that makes them such a successful predator. I found it especially interesting when we opened their stomach; we identified their stomach contents. This is especially significant because we identified their stomach contents to determine which species were suffering due to lionfish predation. I really enjoyed our dissection. The following week was our first field day. We went diving on a reef and practiced protocol for surveying a particular reef. The group was really excited to begin their work and get in the water. Stay tuned for new updates from the Lionfish research project!
Deep Creek Middle School student, Yanni Giannakopulous (grade 9) is leading both Island School and DCMS students through a project to educate local fishermen and restaurant owners on Eleuthera about the market for Lionfish. At the conclusion of the project, the students plan to hold an educational outreach event at a local restaurant where they bring together suppliers and consumers to learn more about how to cook the fish and create a market for this invasive species.
In order to prepare for this final event, the students heard a presentation by Nicola Smith from The Bahamas Department of Marine Resources. She shared some of the latest research on the species. The students are also learning all about safe handling of the lionfish, since their spine rays are venomous, from lionfish researcher at CEI and alumna, Skylar Miller (S’03), as well as delicious preparation of the fish from Island School sustainable chef and alumnus Emery Long (F’04), shown in the photos below. During this Community Outreach class, the students were being filmed by ZED, a French documentary film company who are currently on campus. ZED specializes in natural history, science and adventure and has been working on an invasive species documentary featuring lionfish and will be shooting lots of underwater footage with the lionfish research team at CEI.
My name is Jason and last semester I came to CEI as an intern with the Lionfish program. While working here I got to work on things ranging from catching deepwater sharks to installing new netting on the aquaculture cage to performing monthly surveys looking at the impact of lionfish on reef fish populations. I also got the chance to act as a teaching assistant for the lionfish research class at The Island School and teach students the scientific method and how to investigate ecological questions.
After my internship I decided to take the opportunity to come back to CEI as a research assistant. I still do some of the same things (data collection in the field), but I also gained many new responsibilities. I moved from a teaching assistant to a full-blown co-teacher for the lionfish research class. I am also conducting an independent project on the topic of my choosing to investigate something about the marine world that surrounds us here at CEI.
My name is Mike Piersiak and I came to CEI last semester as an intern with the Shark Research and Conservation Program. My main focus was to gain as much knowledge as I could regarding not only my specific area of interest (sharks), but also knowledge about the other research projects taking place here. Continue reading →
The Lionfish Research and Education Program (LREP) at CEI has already had an exciting start to 2012! Last year, research efforts were focused on a lionfish removal study to document changes in native species at reefs where lionfish densities were regularly controlled. This year officially marks the end of that study…now it’s time to answer new questions! LREP research will focus on addressing questions associated with lionfish recolonization. Understanding rates as well as biological and physical factors that influence where lionfish recolonize can help support best management strategies for the Bahamas and the surround invaded region. Continue reading →