Author: Captain John Howes | Date: 08 December 2012
There is a major lion fish invasion of the entire Caribbean Waters. Lion fish are now found ranging from Massachusetts in the North; to Bermuda; the Gulf of Mexico and throughout the entire Caribbean to Central and South America regions.
These lion fish are actually a native species of the Indo-Pacific waters, but because of their ravenous nature and ornate beauty, they were imported into America, to sell to people for their home aquariums .
It is believed that in 1992, just around the Miami area, Hurricane Andrew destroyed a marine aquarium causing approximately 6 or 8 lion fish to escape into the Florida Biscayne Bay waters. Since that date, they have increased exponentially, by spawning continuously year round.
Marine scientists research reveals that the lion fish have a unique reproductive system, not found in other native species. Spawning year round, a female lion fish spawns between 30,000 to 40,000 eggs every three to four days, for about 30 days, then in a few weeks starts to spawn once again. Therefore one female lion fish can produce well over 3 million offspring per year!
Researchers have documented that there was a boom of about a 700% increase in Bahamian waters between 2004 and 2008.
A lion fish increases rapidly in size, and can become sexually reproductive within their first year, and can grow to 8 inches in length within their first year and keep growing to more than 16 inches in length. These much larger lion fish have been spotted in the Bahamas, their first stop after leaving the Florida coast. They grow so fast, that they easily out grow most native species.
Lion fish can be found in waters, ranging from floating sargasso weed rafts, right down to 1,000 feet deep waters.
Now these lion fish are such ravenous predators and hunters, that they will devour all the baby fishes, shrimp, crabs and baby lobsters; depleting all the reefs and nursery grounds such as the floating sargasso habitat of baby flying fish, dolphin and tuna fish. These type of fish usually spawn on the sargasso sea weed. Their presence and devastation on the other species would also lead to the total devastation of the reefs; as coral reefs need fish to graze on the algae to keep the reefs pristine, and healthy.
After much discussions with the local Montserrat fishermen; Guadeloupian and Leeward Islands fishermen and a Marine Biologist, it is felt that in a very short time, all of the reefs and fishing grounds around the Caribbean, will be totally depleted of our regular pot fish, and some of our pelagic species too, so we will then be forced to consume only these lion fishes for protein.
The lion fish Lhas no known natural predators in the Caribbean's regional waters. However, in the Bahamas and Cayman Islands; fish nurseries, sanctuaries and marine parks are training mutton snappers (Virgin Snappers) and groupers to feed on these lion fish. Divers spear the lion fish, and they then feed them to the snappers and groupers. By doing this, it is hoped that the other snappers and groupers observing these lion fish being eaten, will then learn to start to feed on them also for their food too.
Closer to home, a few Lion fish were spotted on the reefs of the BVI around March 2010, and since that very short time ago, they have totally Invaded all the reefs of the whole region. I remember hearing of a single sighting in Montserrat waters just about two years ago. Since that time, there are now literally millions of them around Montserrat. All of the local fish pots are literally catching dozens in each of their of their fish traps. If a lion fish enters a trap, no other fish will enter that trap.
Now because of the warnings that have been given out about their venomous spinse, most if not all of the local fishermen will not touch a lion fish. They are actually dumping them back into the ocean alive, where they will just continue to reproduce..
Yes the spines are dangerous. However, if they are handled carefully while being cleaned, by holding them with a heavy leather glove, then taking a strong scissors or shears and cutting off the spines on its back, pelvic fins and anal fins, the fish is then 100% safe to handle and eat in any way that you like to prepare fish.
The Venom, is within the external fins, and NOT within the meat. What is being done in Florida, the Bahamas, Jamaica and The Caymans is they also cut off the head. By doing this, it allows the skin to be easily pulled off and reveals a nice white flakey meat. The meat has a fine sweet flavour, similar to a grouper's taste, so there is no need to scale them. Customers can just take them home, season them and cook them, in their favourite way.
Trip To Guadeloupe
I have just arrived back from Guadeloupe, where I met with the President of UMPIG, Mr. Jean Claude Yoyotte, who is the head of All Guadeloupian Fishermen. I also met with their Marine Biologist Nicolai, Fisheries Advisor to the Regional Counsel General, and had some very detailed conversations with them, along with some of the participating Guadeloupian fishermen.
The Marine Biologist Nicolai, with the Regional Counsel General, is now conducting some Research and Testing within several coastal communities around Guadeloupe over the next few months, to see if the local lion fish, being a top predator, may contract Ciguatera Poisoning, from eating soo many juvenile fish. The results should soon be completed within the very near future and if good, will then give Governmental approval for these lion fish to be sold to the public.
Several lion fish were found to contain Ciguatera, in the St. Martin area. However, St. Martin Island, is a known island to have Ciguatera Poisoning in some of its local fish species. A local fisherman on Montserrat, was accidentally pricked in his hand by one of these lion fish spines, and suffered the consequences. He was treated at the hospital, with several injections and tablets, which was not really necessary. All he had to do was to soak his hand in 100 degree water or as hot as he could stand it, then add some epsom salts to the water to ease the pain and swelling.
LION FISH TIPS IF PRICKED BY SPINE
If you were to get pricked by one of these venomous spines, the first thing to do, is check to ensure that the spine has not broken off inside your body. If so, you should remove it as soon as possible, then soak the effected area in a mixture of epsom salts and hot water - as hot as you can be bare it. By doing this, the venom will be neutralized, it can take (depending on the severity) between 15 minutes to one hour of soaking.
Photo Credit To Desk Top Nexus