The Indo-Pacific lionfish species [Pterois volitans (Linnaeus, 1758) and P. miles (Bennett, 1828): Family Scorpaenidae] are the first nonnative marine fishes to establish in the Western North Atlantic and Caribbean Sea. Despite the continued documentation of its range expansion and highly publicized invasion (including public-driven removal efforts) there remains a paucity of basic information on lionfish ecology. This knowledge gap limits effective long-term management. In this study we conducted a multi-scale investigation of habitat occupancy of a newly established population of lionfish in Roatan, Honduras. Based on field surveys and citizen sightings in Roatan Marine Park we found that lionfish occurred more frequently on aggregate coral reef habitats (54% of sightings) compared to patch reef habitats (30%) and sea grass lagoons (16%). In general, these aggregate and patch reef habitats contained adults (mean total length =118.9 mm and 114.7mm, respectively) whereas sea grass habitats contained juveniles (mean total length=89.5 mm). At the micro-habitat scale lionfish occupied areas dominated by hard coral and overhanging structure; the same microhabitats containing native fishes of concern – grouper (Nassau grouper, Epinephelus striatus; yellow fin grouper, Mycteroperca venenosa) and snapper (dog snapper, Lutjanus jocu; mutton snapper, Lutjanus analis). Results from this study contribute information on basic habitat requirements of lionfish and inform current management removal efforts focused on containing spread and mitigating their impacts on native species
The Important Bird Area (IBA) programme is an initiative of BirdLife International aimed at identifying, monitoring and protecting a network of key sites for the conservation of the world's birds. On the islands, Bonaire, Sint Eustatius (Statia) and Saba, nine IBAs have been designated in recent years. Prior to this study the boundaries of these areas were imprecisely defined and the specific ecological values of these areas were poorly documented and did not provide sufficient footing for further legal protection. In this report we compile available information, add recently collected field data and precisely define boundaries based on ecological and planning criteria so as to furnish the level of documentation sufficient to allow further legal designation and protection by island governments.
In this report we specifically:
- document the most important ecological values represented in each IBA
- define exact boundaries based on ecological and planning criteria and pinpoint core areas that can be distinguished for each IBA
- discuss the IBA’s spatial context within development and/or land-use plans
- identify potential factors and developments that threaten the long-term spatial and ecological integrity of each IBA
- determine which measures are needed to maintain the spatial and ecological integrity of each IBA.
On Saba one IBA is identified: Saba coastline IBA (AN 006). The 2,145 ha IBA of Saba lacks any form of legal designation as a protected area. Its value is especially based on breeding seabirds, most importantly the Red-billed Tropicbird and the Audubon’s Shearwater. In addition to legal designation, measures needed to protect the values of this IBA include eradication or control of predators such as cats and rats, and management of the garbage dump to limit the number of these predators. On Saba no gaps in IBA coverage are identified.
On Sint Eustatius two IBAs are identified: Boven (AN 007) and The Quill (AN 008). In contrast to Saba, the two IBAs of St. Eustatius enjoy almost full legal designation as protected park areas. Based on our findings we propose an extension of the 1,106 ha Boven IBA to include Signal Hill for its concentration of nesting Red-billed Tropicbirds. The problems caused by cats and rats are much less acute on Statia than on Saba. The value of the 472 ha Quill IBA is largely based on the resident breeding landbirds it supports. Key threats include goats and possibly feral chickens.
On Bonaire six IBAs are identified: Washington-Slagbaai National Park (AN 009), Dos Pos (AN 010), Washikemba-Fontein-Onima (AN 011), Klein Bonaire (AN 012), Lac Bay (AN 013), and Pekelmeer Saltworks (AN 014). The IBAs are designated as “nature” or “open landscape” in the Nature Policy Plan Bonaire spatial plan, thus enjoying protection.
Washington-Slagbaai National Park (AN 009). (Size: 7,529 ha.)
The Slagbaai IBA covers a diversity of habitats ranging from coastal lagoons to vegetated hillsides. Key values include its habitat value for Yellow-shouldered Amazon, nesting terns and foraging (West-Indian) Flamingos. Most of the area is legally protected either as an island park or with Ramsar status and actively managed. Key threats include overgrazing by feral goats and pigs. Poaching of the Yellow-shouldered Amazon is also a significant problem. Disturbance of tern colonies also occurs due to inappropriate routing of vehicles close to the important nesting island in the Slagbaai lagoon.
Dos Pos (AN 010) (Size: 293 ha.)
Dos Pos IBA is relatively small and largely has no legal protected status. It is an important freshwater site and is both of importance to resident species of which Yellow-shouldered Amazon is the most threatened worldwide.
Washikemba-Fontein-Onima (AN 011) (Size: 6,286 ha.)
The Washikemba-Fontein-Onima IBA includes critical habitat for the Yellow-shouldered Amazon, nesting terns and the Caribbean Coot. About half the area is legally designated as either as “Island Park” or “Protected Landscape” in the Nature Policy Plan Bonaire.
Klein Bonaire (AN 012) (Size: 2,052 ha.)
The Klein Bonaire IBA enjoys full legal protection being designated as a local conservation area and as an internationally recognized Ramsar wetland. The island and surrounding reef are protected within the Bonaire National Marine Park. It is principally of value as a tern nesting island. The woodlands are recovering since complete removal of goats from the island.
Lac Bay (AN 013) (Size: 2,117 ha.)
The Lac Bay IBA enjoys legal designation both as an island conservation area and as international Ramsar wetland site. The mangroves and salt flats are of local significance to nesting terns and hold a breeding population of the Reddish Egret (IUCN-status Near-Threatened).
Pekelmeer Saltworks (AN 014) (Size 6,197 ha.)
The Pekelmeer Saltworks IBA covers about one fifth of the island of Bonaire. Only the 55 ha “Flamingo Sanctuary” and the Pekelmeer enjoy island legal protected status and Ramsar wetland status, while most of the area is used as saliña by the Cargill company. Key IBA values in this area include the nesting colony of the Caribbean Flamingo, and nesting colonies of various tern species. The construction of isolated islands that will not be subject to industrial traffic along the dikes of the managed ponds should provide suitable nesting habitat for recovery of tern nesting in this area of the island. The Laughing Gull population of Bonaire is expanding largely due to the open landfill. This species predates on tern nests and should be controlled if it continues to expand in numbers.
All in all 18 trigger species occur in the nine IBAs in the Caribbean Netherlands. The IBAs on the Leeward islands of Saba and Sint Eustatius host ten and eleven species respectively. Saba is important for the breeding seabirds Audubon’s Shearwater and Red-billed Tropicbird, species with a high conservation priority. The Saba Coastline IBA is the only IBA in the Caribbean Netherlands that qualifies for Audubon’s Shearwater. Saba’s IBA qualifies for another seven species which are all year-round residents with a restricted world’s breeding distribution. St. Eustatius is important for the breeding seabird Red-billed Tropicbird, as well as another eight species: Bridled Quail-dove, hummingbirds and songbirds with a restricted range. The IBAs on the Leeward island of Bonaire host ten trigger species. Some of Bonaire’s IBAs are important for breeding seabird species with a high conservation priority like Royal, Sandwich, Common and Least Tern. Furthermore Bonaire’s IBAs are important for a number of species with a restricted range, of which Caribbean Coot and Yellow-shouldered Amazon have a high conservation priority.
On Bonaire several areas are identified that host IBA key species or other ecological valuable bird species and currently are not designated as IBA: 1) Ponds north of Dos Pos; 2) Ponds east of Kralendijk; 3) Urban parrot roosts; 4) Seru Largu.
This report is part of the Wageningen University BO research program (BO-11-011.05-016) and was financed by the Ministry of Economic Affairs (EZ) under project number 4308701005.
- Include all the area of Salina Goto and salina Frans inside the borders of WSNP. This expansion will not only benefit the waterbirds but every other native species of flora and fauna as well.
- Pursue the designation of Salina Frans as a Ramsar site for Bonaire.
- Keep collecting data for the long term monitoring programs. It is fundamental for the proper management of our natural resources.
- Provide more training for the staff and volunteers involved in the counts.
- Install permanent depth gauges in all the salinas being monitored.
- Conduct more scientific research for a better understanding of the ecological functions of the salinas as a habitat for water birds
- As resources or time become available, start a monitoring program for the nesting seasons of our resident waterbirds.
- Spread out monitoring areas to include the Salinas in Central and South of Bonaire.
This document serves as a reference for the controlling and management of the invasive Indo-Pacific lionfish (Pterois miles and P. volitans complex). Lionfish are expected in St. Eustatius waters in the near future and can have serious detrimental affects to the island’s marine environment, particularly to the populations of both ecologically and economically important fish species. Coral reef ecosystems can also experience degradation due to predatory stress caused by lionfish on coral reef grazers such as parrotfish (Scaridae).
The invasive lionfish also poses a threat to public health; the species has fourteen venomous spines over the length of its body which can inflict a painful sting. Particularly vulnerable to lionfish envenomations are those stakeholders of the Marine Park who have the potential of coming in close contact with the species such as fishers and divers. Recreational beach goers also face the potential of being envenomated. Envenomations can be particularly dangerous to infants, the elderly, individuals with a compromised immune system and those sensitive to the venom.
Due to the nature of the invasion of aquatic species in general and lionfish more specifically, it must be realized that a complete eradication of the species is impossible, therefore this plan will seek to actively manage lionfish in Statia territorial waters. The goals and objectives of this management plan are to adequately control the impact the species will have on the ecosystem level and with regards to the risk it poses to the community and to the local economy. Management goals and objectives are coordinated and communicated with different agencies to ensure local and regional cooperation, education of and outreach to stakeholders, research and management option development on the nature of the infestation, and a species control mechanism which will seek to limit the effects of species arrival.
Management actions should be clear in both the management of the species on a local level and contributing species information on a regional and international level. Management actions in this plan are divided into two stages; pre species arrival and post species arrival actions. Actions within the two stages can belong to phase one management actions, which are the first actions to be implemented, or phase two actions, which follow phase 1 actions and are continuous. Some management actions belong to both phase one and phase two management actions. The proposed management actions for the controlling of lionfish in the St. Eustatius National Marine Park include education and outreach on the nature and threats of the invasion, coordination with other agencies and organizations on management options, infestation research and development such as stomach content analysis and genetic sampling, planning and assessment in the form of lionfish action protocols and lionfish sweeps, and specimen control mechanisms such as species collection and eventual culling.
Appreciation is expressed to all those who assisted with technical support regarding this Response Plan, particularly the insight gained during the Lionfish Workshop hosted by the Bonaire National Marine Park in cooperation with the Reef Environmental Education Foundation and funded by the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance, and various workshops given by Chris Flook of the Bermuda Museum and Zoo.
Lionfish, Pterois volitans and P. miles, are native to the Indo-Pacific and have recently invaded the Western Atlantic Ocean. Strategies for control of this invasion have included limited removal programs and promotion of lionfish consumption at both local and commercial scales. We demonstrate that lionfish meat contains higher levels of healthy n-3 fatty acids than some frequently consumed native marine fish species. Mean lionfish fillet yield was 30.5% of the total body wet weight, a value that is similar to that of some grouper and porgy species. A sensory evaluation indicated that lionfish meet the acceptability threshold of most consumers.