July 25, 2021

Management plan [St Croix] for invasive lionfish open for public comment

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lionfishBy Joy Blackburn From Virgin Islands Daily News

ST. CROIX – Several years after the predatory, invasive Pacific lionfish showed up in territorial waters, a task force of federal agencies has developed a draft National Invasive Lionfish Prevention and Management Plan that is available for public comment.

Members of the public can comment on the draft plan through Jan. 26.

“We do know if we work in a more direct way, we may be able to help address the impact in specific areas – for instance protected areas – throughout the entire region,” said Margaret Brady, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration liaison to the Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force.

The invasive Pacific lionfish is known to be present in the Atlantic waters off the U.S. East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico, as well as in the Caribbean.

The Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force – an organization comprising representatives from different federal agencies dedicated to preventing and controlling aquatic nuisance species – developed the plan.

The non-native lionfish – which has a voracious appetite and no natural predators in the Caribbean – has the potential to wreak havoc on fisheries and reefs.

Brady said the task force expects to get quite a few comments on the draft plan from the public.

Once the comments are compiled, the plan will be finalized.

The plan includes the goals of preventing the spread of invasive lionfish; early detection and rapid response; controlling and managing the species; assessing the impact of the invasion; and evaluating future needs and education.

In the territory, the first reported lionfish sightings were in 2008 in waters off St. Croix, followed by the first captures in 2009. Lionfish soon began to appear in waters off St. Thomas and St. John as well.

Local dive shops, fishermen, biologists and others banded together and have worked to try to keep the lionfish population in check. A local plan for responding to lionfish was developed, and the nonprofit Caribbean Oceanic Restoration and Education Foundation came about.

Dr. William Coles, the chief of Environmental Education at the V.I. Department of Planning and Natural Resources’ Division of Fish and Wildlife, said that while the territory has a problem with lionfish, he thinks the fact that there was a collaborative effort between a variety of interested people and groups in the territory has helped keep the lionfish population down from where it would have been.

“As near as I can tell, we are doing a lot better than many other areas,” Coles said of the territory. “It is possible to go and dive and swim in the territory without seeing a lionfish. That’s not true in many other countries, because the lionfish has truly taken over.”

He cited the collaborative effort.

“We’re all stewards of this,” he said.

To view the draft National Invasive Lionfish Prevention and Management Plan, go to www.anstaskforce.gov and click on the link.

Comments can be submitted by emailing [email protected] or by mailing them to:

Susan Pasko, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 1315 East West Highway, SSMC 3, Room 15719, Silver Spring, Md., 20910.

For more on this story go to: http://virginislandsdailynews.com/news/management-plan-for-invasive-lionfish-open-for-public-comment-1.1807528


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