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Lionfish population down

Saturday, April 12, 2014 | 4:46 PM    

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KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) – The National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) is reporting a 66 per cent reduction in sightings of the ferocious Pacific lionfish in Jamaican waters.

This is just one of the many successes achieved under the recently concluded Mitigating the Threat of Invasive Alien Species (IAS) in the Insular Caribbean (MTIASIC) project, which was launched four and half years ago.

The lionfish is a voracious predator, believed to have entered Caribbean waters from a protected environment in the United States after a natural disaster in 1992. By 2006, experts said, they could be found on almost every reef in Jamaica.

Their population can be as high as 250 lionfish per hectare – a situation which has been threatening smaller marine fish, shrimp, crabs, and other crustaceans on which they prey. The livelihoods of fisherfolk and the island’s fish exports were also at risk.

However, over the course of the past four year, under the National Lionfish Project, targeted removal strategies have seen the population in frequently visited areas reduced significantly. It is now down to approximately 80 lionfish per hectare in some areas.

The project also produced the now quite popular and successful, ‘Eat it to Beat it’ campaign, as well as a number of other public awareness initiatives geared at stemming the population of the lionfish.

Speaking at the closing-out ceremony of the MTIASIC project held at the Pollyanna hotel in Kingston on Friday (April 11), Minister of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change, Robert Pickersgill, lauded NEPA and other stakeholders for the successful implementation of the MTIASIC programme.

The National Lionfish Project formed part of the larger MTIASIC, which was financed by the Global Environment Facility, and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

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