Caribbean fishermen will use traps to catch invasive lionfish

Fishermen on the Caribbean coast are considering the use of traps to catch lionfish, the predators that eat their weight in other species each day.

The Asociación de Pescadores Artesanales del Caribe Sur said it has created a model of a trap that will be duplicated and distributed along the coast.

The other alternative to getting rid of the lionfish is spearing by divers. The association notes that traps can operate at a depth where divers cannot go. And they operate 24 hours a day, the association said.

This is the same group that runs the fish spearing contest every year.

The association is expected to make a symbolic distribution of traps at the end of the month to some 70 fishermen.

The project has the support of the U.N. Priogramme for Development and the central government, the association said. The Municipalidad de Talamanca and the Universidad de Costa Rica also are involved, the association said.

The association said it still will run its annual sweep. This year it will be in Manzanillo Sept. 27. Prizes are awarded to the divers who bring in the most lionfish.

Traps have proved to be effective elsewhere. A lobster fisherman in Florida was reported to be complaining that his traps become full of lionfish instead of lobster.

The principal criticism is that the traps have to be maintained. However, the lionfish is edible and can be sold for human consumption.

The lionfish is a beautiful creature, and the invasive species in the Atlantic may have come from aquariums. There are 10 species of the fish, and two, including Pterois volitans, are in the Atlantic.

Invasive lionfish were first reported off Florida’s Atlantic coast in the mid-1980s, but did not become numerous in the region until 2000.  Since then, the lionfish population has rapidly spread north through the Atlantic Ocean and south throughout most of the Caribbean.

The fish use their large fins to herd together mainly smaller fish so they can be eaten. Because they expand their fins they are vulnerable to traps because once they are inside, they cannot exit.

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