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Lionfish population down in Jamaica
Published on April 15, 2014 Email To Friend    Print Version

Minister of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change, Robert Pickersgill (second left), shares a light moment with Chief Executive Officer, National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), Peter Knight (left); Project Manager, NEPA, Sherese Simpson (second right); and Project Evaluator, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Hugo Arnold, during the closing-out ceremony for the MTIASIC project in Kingston on April 11. Photo: Michael Shaw

By Athaliah Reynolds-Baker

KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) -- The National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) has reported a 66 percent 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 fisher folk 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 in Kingston on Friday, April 11, minister of water, land, environment and climate change, Robert Pickersgill, praised 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).

The project has also seen the development of a National Invasive Alien Species (IAS) Strategy and Action Plan, which will guide policy over the next six years.

IAS are plants, animals or micro-organisms introduced deliberately or unintentionally into areas where they do not occur naturally.

MTIASIC Coordinator, Nelsa English-Johnson, said that other achievements under the MTIASIC include a two-fold increase in nesting of the Jamaican iguana. This was accomplished under the Jamaican Iguana Recovery programme, which aims to conserve Jamaican iguanas by eradicating invasive feral animals in the Hellshire Hills.

There was also the implementation of a Pet Trade pathway toolkit, which is aimed at addressing the Pet Trade, one of the major pathways through which IAS are introduced into Jamaica.

Also, through regional workshops, the project helped to develop a regional IAS strategy, where Jamaica led on developing the freshwater and marine components of the regional strategy.

English-Johnson said the project was also able to increase the country’s capacity in putting in place protective measures in the Lower Black River Morass (Ramsar Site) to safeguard against two freshwater plants, and other animals that are negatively impacting the wetland, which is of international importance.
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