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Workshop trains stakeholders in Lionfish population control

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Dickenson Bay, Antigua (November 16, 2016) – Twenty local fishermen, fisheries officers, and marine scientists completed their certification in lionfish management as Antigua & Barbuda, along with the rest of the Caribbean, continues to struggle with controlling the population of the invasive species.

University of the West Indies lionfish Researcher Dr Dayne Buddo, led the “Management and Control of the Invasive Lionfish” training course sponsored by the Sandals Foundation and hosted at Sandals Grande Antigua Resort & Spa from November 14 to 16.

The course, targeted at marine scientists, fisheries officers, dive operators, first aid responders, and marine protected areas managers, aimed to train trainers who can therefore build capacity in Antigua & Barbuda for the eradication of the lionfish.

“Caribbean governments need to realise the urgency of this matter. The lionfish eat very small fish at a rapid rate and are wiping out fish stocks,” Dr Buddo said. He noted that he has found a wide range of fish species in the bellies of hunted lionfish proving that the ferocious eaters are dangerous to the future of livelihoods of fishermen.

“Our approach to lionfish has to be different. We have to consistently cull them or else they will kill our reefs.”

The Caribbean is under severe threat from the recent invasion of Lionfish, one of the fastest finfish invasions in history, and it has become increasingly important that countries which have been invaded build the technical capacity to respond to the invasion.

Dr Buddo, of the UWI (Mona) Marine Invasive Species Lab has formulated and developed a training course on the management and control of lionfish. This has been delivered as a “Train the Trainer” model, which allows for greater capacity-building and increases the rate of training and awareness among a wide range of stakeholders in the countries in the Caribbean. This training programme has been delivered to many stakeholder groups in Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Grenada and St. Lucia.

The course covers the biology of the lionfish, as well as the ecological, economic and public health impacts of the species in the region. It demonstrates through hands-on activities, the recommended best practices for safe in-water removals, venomous spine removal, in-water population monitoring, safe diving practices, lionfish sting emergency response, scientific data collection from specimens and public education techniques.

The Sandals Foundation has previously sponsored the delivery of this programme in St. Lucia and Jamaica and now in Antigua.