Grand Cayman Dive Operators Implement New Program. Lionfish Course aims to combat ever-increasing lionfish numbers
The Cayman Islands Tourism Association has announced the 'Invasive Lionfish Tracker', a PADI Distinctive Specialty course available to both residents and visitors. The one-day program aims to educate divers about the invasive predator with essential lionfish facts and their invasion of Caribbean and north-western Atlantic. The course explains why immediate action is essential to control the population and describes a practical way to safely and humanely capture and euthanize the fish. Two dives are included in the course for practical application of the knowledge and upon completion, students will be issued a new PADI c-card in addition to a local culling license.
As the Marine Parks Law prohibits scuba divers from collecting anything living or dead from the Cayman Islands waters. Prior to the course’s implementation, approval was required from the Department of the Environment (DOE) and the Marine Conservation Board, with the objective that once a student passed the course, they could be issued a local lionfish culling license. Following review, with some inclusions from local Marine Parks Laws, the course was approved.
"This was truly a collaborative effort in Cayman once again, with both public and private sector working together to address this threat. Both parties realized that fast response was needed and this new course will assist Cayman in its fight against the invasive lionfish" commented John Bothwell, Senior Research Officer of the DOE.
From a handful of fish believed to have escaped from the aquarium trade south Florida in the 1990’s, lionfish numbers in the Caribbean have exploded. Boasting voracious appetites and no local predators to inhibit their numbers, lionfish have followed currents up the East Coast of the United States and to Bermuda. After traversing the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas, the fish have expanded southward into the rest of the Caribbean and westward to the Cayman Islands.