A Fish With Nowhere to Hide

caught-lionfish_140113

The weather is much better, and we were able to do several dives and get a good grasp on just how bad the lionfish invasion in Belize really is.

They are everywhere. We saw and collected them in all habitats we visited, including coral reef, sea grass and mangrove. Finding them in the last two is especially disheartening, as they are nursery habitats for many coral reef species.

Lionfish are eating young reef fish before they can even get there.

In the morning we dove along the barrier reef to estimate lionfish abundance there. During a 45-minute dive, we counted more than 20 of them.

For perspective, we were a group of five divers, swimming slowly over the edge of the barrier reef. Collectively we would see a lionfish on average every two minutes.

Even though this area of Belize has some spectacular diving, it is relatively far from the main airport, and there are no major scuba dive centers.

In addition, the main fisheries here are for queen conch and lobster, so nobody is actively fishing the lionfish. Without any control from divers or fishermen, the lionfish population has been allowed to grow unchecked.

Carole