Press Release Issued by the Department of Fisheries, Castries, 21 October, 2011

The invasion of the Indo-Pacific Lionfish within the Northeastern Atlantic and Caribbean has has been progressively affecting the region over past years. The lionfish has a voracious appetite for eating juvenile reef fishes and it reproduces rapidly in new areas once it settles in. Based on a sighting and photographic record submitted through one of the Sandals dive centers, the Department of Fisheries this week has now verified the presence of lionfish in the waters of Saint Lucia, as sighted on a reef off the Ciceron area. This early notification of the presence of the Lionfish comes out of the swift response of the local dive company, having been part of the Lionfish Task Force set up earlier this year to facilitate St Lucia’s preparedness for the likely invasion of the Lionfish. The fish was confirmed in waters off Martinique earlier this year, having made its way steadily southwards following a gradual wave of invasion throughout the islands of the Greater and now the Lesser Antilles.

As a consequence of this sighting, the Department of Fisheries requests that all licensed dive operators and fishers now move to a higher level of surveillance in monitoring coastal waters for the lionfish. Any lionfish found should be carefully captured and, preferably frozen and brought to the Department of Fisheries where they can be examined and used in demonstrating and promoting the use of lionfish as a valuable food source. The Department has also called for a meeting of the National Lionfish Task Force to take place at its Castries office on Wednesday October 28th. At the meeting, the Task Force will seek to activate various components of the response plan. Persons are reminded that, although the Lionfish has venomous spines and must be handled very carefully using an appropriate protective barrier such as PVC gloves, it has been successfully used in many Caribbean countries and elsewhere in the world as a tasty and nutritious food fish. Developing a viable Lionfish fishery is often a key component of an effective national response.