Local efforts to curb the encroachment of invasive species in Costa Rica’s Caribbean got a big boost this week with the formation of a National Commission for the Management and Control of Lionfish. The new commission will provide government support for Caribbean fishing associations that are already actively combatting the proliferation of lionfish (Pterois).
Introduced to the Atlantic Ocean from the Indo-Pacific sometime in the 1980s, the lionfish has been wreaking havoc on Caribbean fish populations. The fish can gobble up two smaller fish every minute and lay up to 30,000 eggs each year, depleting catches for fishermen and damaging the ecosystem. Though not the hardest hit country in the region, Costa Rica has approximately 90 lionfish per hectare and fishermen have reported an 80-87 percent decline in their catches since 2009 when the fish began to appear off the country’s coast.
Since 2012, the Southern Caribbean Traditional Fishermen’s Association (APACS) has worked to spear or trap as many lionfish as possible, but lack of funding has limited their efforts.
Made up of ten government organizations, universities, NGOs and community leaders, the new commission will allocate public resources to combat the lionfish invasion. The commission will meet over the next several months to determine its first steps, which will include a publicity campaign to encourage the public to buy and eat lionfish, as well as better funding for the annual lionfish tournament in Manzanillo.
“At the moment we are working with the commission to put on the best lionfish fishing tournament yet,” said José Ugalde a member of APACS.