March 18, 2014
Fisherfolk, dive operators, lifeguards and hoteliers in Negril, Westmoreland were recently re-enforced with practical measures of managing the Lionfish population through a public education forum organized by the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA).
The more than 20 stakeholders who attended the forum at the Negril Community Centre were informed about the role individuals can play in controlling the Lionfish population; how to safely handle and cook the Lionfish as well as first aid measures if stung.
Emerging from that forum, the stakeholders, representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and NEPA developed strategies to monitor and record the presence of the fish, reduce its numbers and raise public awareness.
These strategies included the hosting of Lionfish derbies and cook-off competitions, using the fish as the meal of choice for flagship community events, targeting hoteliers to implement a Lionfish programme to train workers and guests alike and engaging local businesses to spread the word.
Nelsa English-Johnson, Project Coordinator for NEPA’s Centre for Agricultural Bio-Science International/United Nations Environment Programme (CABI/UNEP) Mitigating the Threat of Invasive Alien Species in the Insular Caribbean (MTIASIC) Project, said the meeting was a success.
Lenford King, who has been fishing in the community for some 15 years, said he was happy to have had the meeting.
"It was very informative meeting, as a fisherman; we know some of these things but I like the fact that we were reinforced to do certain things, like what we should do if we get stung," he said adding that he was helping to reduce the Lionfish population by catching them.
Hugh Johnson, a lifeguard at the Randel Village Hotel said he will share what he has learnt with his manager and co-workers.
"Now when I go out on the beach I will look out for the Lionfish and if I see any, I’m going to destroy it," informed Johnson who has been a lifeguard for eight years and said he was proud that his company had in stock the necessary supplies for Lionfish management.
The MTIASIC Project began in 2009 and will end this month. The Project saw NEPA partnering with the University of the West Indies- Discovery Bay Marine Laboratory to develop a number of strategies to manage the Lionfish population in Jamaica.
"While we have made strides in lowering its numbers in our marine waters, we can never truly get rid of the Lionfish. By continuing our public education through meetings like these, we can leave a foundation for the work to continue even after the project funded by the Global Environment Facility and the Government of Jamaica has ended," said Mrs. English-Johnson.
The MTIASIC Project has over the years tracked the number of Lionfish in Jamaican marine waters, analyzed the species’ impact on reef fish population, studied its biology and behaviour patterns, designed special traps to catch them and done widescale public education on how to safely handle the fish.