As 2018 concludes, we find ourselves in a strong position, equipped with knowledge to enable informed decision-making with regards to lionfish management. Over the course of the last decade, considerable efforts have been made to address the threats of the lionfish invasion in our waters. However, given their unique and highly effective predation strategy, the establishment of lionfish in national waters continues to pose concern. There is an urgent need to understand how their presence will impact the health of our reefs and fisheries and their subsequent impact to the livelihoods of fishers, and the wellbeing of coastal communities.
Current lionfish removal efforts in Belize are frequent and involve multiple stakeholders, and appear to be paying off. Whilst maintaining the momentum of existing efforts, over the course of the next five years we must also continue to collaborate across sectors in order to realise effective lionfish control. We must be proactive in seeking innovative mechanisms to control the numbers of lionfish in our waters with special consideration to opportunities that could also bring additional benefits to coastal stakeholders.
The launch of this strategy marks almost exactly 10 years since the invasive red lionfish, Pterois volitans, was officially recorded in Belize. By 2010, this highly reproductive fish had successfully established itself throughout Belize’s marine environment – from remote coral reef atolls to nearshore mangroves. It is with this in mind that we urge all interested in lionfish control to feed their efforts into the national strategy, and of course, keep ordering lionfish at your favourite restaurants!