|The Lionfish (pteoris)|
The number of confirmed sightings of Lionfish (pteoris) in Barbados waters now stands at five.
But, the rate at which they are multiplying continues to be a mystery to coastal officials.
Marine Biologist with the Coastal Zone Management Unit (CZMU), Angelique Brathwaite, said, so far, the fish had been spotted at Pamir Wreck, Mullins Reef and Fisherman’s Reef along the West Coast, and the Bridgetown Fishing Complex this year; while the first one was spotted on Allan’s Reef on November 24 last year.
"We expected to see an increase in their numbers by now. It is strange that they are taking so long to establish themselves. It is really unusual,and we don’t know why," she said.
She added that in none of the other islands, where the fish was spotted, did it take so long to establish itself.
As a result, Ms. Brathwaite said plans to start training local chefs to prepare and create meals using the fish had been put on hold, because the fish numbers are just not enough.
In the interim, however, the CZMU is maintaining open lines of communication with dive shops and fishermen, through the distribution of fliers and the hosting of workshops to maintain the level of awareness.
The most recent workshop was held last month as part of the celebrations for Fisherman’s Week. That workshop looked at the various spears that can be used to capture the lionfish if spotted. "The spear gun is unnecessary," the Marine Biologist pointed out.
She explained that officials gave demonstrations during the workshop on how to use the spears, how to remove the spines and how to cut the fish into fillets.
"Right now we are working on another workshop for operators of dive shops, and we are speaking with people about the fish," she said, adding that workshop would continue to look at how to fillet the fish.
Ms. Brathwaite gave the assurance that there were already plans afoot to deal with the Lionfish if or when it became established in Barbados.
A Lionfish Invasion Response Plan, drafted by the Natural Heritage Department in collaboration with the Fisheries Division, the CZMU and the University of the West Indies, was introduced in June 2011.
In addition, surveys on the island’s south and west coasts are conducted every four months to allow officials to collect data, and identify any changes in fish catches or in the numbers of reef fish.
The Lionfish gills have a red and pink "plumage", and the fish is easy to spot as it glides around the reef. It also has pectoral and dorsal spines which could inject venom into the skin of anyone handling it incorrectly.
If stung by a Lionfish, persons are advised to immerse the wound in water as hot as can be tolerated without burning the skin to break down the toxins, and seek immediate medical attention. Wounds resulting from a Lionfish sting are very painful.