Regional Strategy for the Control of Invasive Lionfish in the Wider Caribbean
Lionfishes are venomous species of scorpionfishes which are native to Indo-Pacific coral reef ecosystems and adjacent habitats. Because of their colorful and dramatic appearance, they are prized by aquarists around the world. Through accidental and/or purposeful release into warm Atlantic waters, they have become established as a highly problematic alien species that poses a serious threat to coral reefs in Bermuda, Florida, the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean islands, Central America, and northern South America. Invasive lionfish populations can reach high densities and cause extreme disruption to native fish communities; they have been shown to reduce biodiversity, are responsible for the decline of ecologically important species, and hinder stock-rebuilding efforts for economically important species.
In January 2010, in recognition of the severity of the lionfish invasion and its impact on coral reefs and local communities, the 24th General Meeting of the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) agreed to set up an Ad Hoc Committee to develop a strategic plan for the control of lionfish in the Wider Caribbean. The Strategy described in this document is one of the actions implemented by the Ad Hoc Committee, known as the Regional Lionfish Committee (RLC). It seeks to build on the existing programs and efforts aimed at minimizing the impacts of the lionfish in the region, and to provide a framework for action to provide a regionally coordinated response to the lionfish threat. The Strategy is based on the following objectives:
- i) Facilitate collaboration among governments, reef-reliant industries, civil society, and academia by providing mechanisms for coordination of efforts across political and geographical boundaries,
- ii) Encourage a coordinated research and monitoring agenda,
- iii) Encourage governments to review and amend relevant legislation and, if necessary, develop new regulations and policies to control lionfish,
- iv) Control invasive lionfish populations using regionally coordinated, effective methods, and
- v) Provide education, information and outreach mechanisms to generate public support and foster stewardship in invasive lionfish programs.
Each of the objectives is supported by strategies and actions with specific stakeholders identified as possible implementers. It is expected that this Strategy will be used by governments and other stakeholders to create plans to implement many of the actions identified in this strategy. The action plans would include timelines and indicators to measure effectiveness in achieving the objectives of this Strategy. Local government, coastal communities, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and marine industries will play an important role in implementing on-ground actions to reduce lionfish impacts and enhance the resilience of reefs in the Wider Caribbean region.