Learning to Lionfish

We’ve come to the end of another fun and busy week here with WSORC as we start our ocean safaris, beach clean ups and research dives! We’ve been improving our duck diving technique and are getting better at fish identification on the coralwatch surveys, whilst obtaining important information on the health of the coral surrounding Utila.

However, this week has largely been focused on the lionfish of the Caribbean. Whilst they are one of the most beautiful fish in the sea, they are causing the death of reef species throughout the Caribbean. Lionfish are an invasive species here, eating important algal grazers that feed on the algae found on coral surfaces. Without these grazers (i.e parrotfish) managing algal growth, the algae smothers the coral with light unable to penetrate through for photosynthesis. The result is coral death, and the damage this species has already caused is devastating.

WSORC teamed up with the Bay Islands College of Diving this week to participate in lionfish workshops to improve our spear fishing technique, practicing on potatoes and onions before we headed out to see if our training had paid off. It was a successful dive, bringing back 12 lionfish from depths below 25m. This means we can start dissections to determine what they’re eating, how fast they’re growing, as well as what maturity levels they need to be at before they start reproducing.

We’re already halfway through our internship here with WSORC, and the amount of skills we’ve been taught is something you don’t get from a university education (we’ve even learnt how to dock a boat) – and to be able to do it in paradise is pretty ideal. I am beyond in love with Utila!