Lionfish Trapping Experiment
Posted July 10 2015
The Ministry of Health, Seniors and Environment, are advising boaters that the Marine Resources Section of the Department of Environmental Protection is conducting lionfish trapping experiments this summer and are advising the public to be careful to avoid the traps.
Currently, traps are located on the South Shore from Castle Roads to the area off Devonshire Bay in approximately 200ft of water; however, starting next week, commercial fishermen will be assisting with the experiments and will be placing traps in other areas of the Bermuda Platform – Southwest, East and North. Traps will be identified with flag buoys similar to those used on lobster traps.
The trapping experiments are part of the effort to find solutions for controlling invasive lionfish, which pose a threat to Bermuda’s reef ecosystem. As announced by the Minister of Health, Seniors and Environment in May 2014 in the House of Assembly, this is one of the initiatives implemented as part of a Lionfish Control Plan by the Lionfish Taskforce (a collaborative effort between Government, NGOs, and concerned citizens).
The Minister of Health, Seniors and Environment, the Hon. Jeanne Atherden JP MP, said: “The Marine Resources section is taking a necessary leading role in this area and the Government is committed to supporting this critical element of our marine conservation.”
The traps target lionfish in deeper waters, and will complement the volunteer culling programme that helps control lionfish in the shallows. As a result of fundraising by the Taskforce, including a very generous donation from local hardware store Gorham’s Limited, the fishermen will be compensated for assisting with the experiments.
Lionfish have been regularly caught as bycatch in commercial lobster traps since 2008, so these traps have been used as the basis for the lionfish traps. The Marine Resources Section has been testing different types of funnels and baiting strategies, with the goal of increasing the catch of lionfish, reducing the catch of spiny lobster and maintaining the low levels of finfish bycatch for which the lobster trap was developed.
Previous testing has revealed that a fixed funnel opening keeps large fish like groupers out of the traps, and the escape slots in the sides of the trap allow smaller fish to get out but keep lionfish in.
The trapping experiments have garnered interest from other countries in the region that are also battling the lionfish invasion.
Dr. Joanna Pitt of the Marine Resources Section travelled to Martinique last week to give a presentation and conduct a workshop on Bermuda’s lionfish trapping work at a Fisheries and Aquaculture week. The trip was sponsored by the South Urban Community of Martinique. Dr. Pitt has previously presented results of the trapping experiments at Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute meetings.
For more information on the trapping experiments, the public is invited to contact the Marine Resources Section at 293-5600 or encouraged to learn more about the Lionfish Control Plan and the work of the Lionfish Taskforce at www.lionfish.bm