Since its accidental introduction to the Atlantic in the 1980s, the Indo-Pacific lionfish Pterois volitans has become one of the greatest threats to the resilience of Caribbean reef systems. With extremely rapid reproduction and few natural predators outside its native range, lionfish populations have exploded across the Caribbean and beyond, devastating fish and invertebrate communities on coral reefs throughout the region.
A voracious predator of juvenile fish and invertebrates, lionfish suppress populations of many ecologically important species. With Caribbean ecosystems already weakened by the effects of overfishing and climate change, the lionfish invasion is driving further dramatic reductions in fish recruitment rates.
Lionfish are a particular menace for Belize, a small country where fishing and marine tourism support the livelihoods of over 15,000 people and contribute 25% to GDP. Whilst eradicating lionfish is not possible, recent research has shown that suppressing populations on coral reefs allows native marine species to recover. To do so requires significant and consistent removal of lionfish at scale, with the engagement of all reef stakeholders.
Since 2011, Blue Ventures has pioneered efforts to commercialise Belize’s nascent lionfishery by working with fishers, consumers, restaurants, fishing cooperatives and seafood distributors.