Although lionfish are a beautiful subject for many underwater photographers due to their bright colouration and feathery fins, these fish are an invasive species in the Caribbean and the Atlantic ocean. Lionfish are native to the Indo-Pacific, and are not meant to be in our waters.
Lionfish are thriving in the Caribbean because they have an insatiable appetite for juvenile reef fish, and will eat anything that fits into their large mouth. They lack natural predators on this side of the world and reproduce at a fast rate, contributing to their growing numbers. The presence of lionfish here can cause an imbalance in the natural ecosystem of the reef. In Bonaire, however, we take action!
Luckily as divers, we can help in removing lionfish off of our Caribbean reefs! In Bonaire, trained divers can go out and hunt them using an ELF (Eliminate Lionfish). This removal system is in accordance with STINAPA’s marine park regulations. To get involved, you can sign up for the PADI Lionfish Hunter distinctive specialty. During a classroom session and 2 training dives with an instructor, you will learn about the anatomy and behaviour of this invasive species as well as how they got to Bonaire. You will practice how to safely handle the ELF and spear a lionfish. After completion of the course, you will be a certified Lionfish Hunter! A local dive guide can then take you out on some beautiful dives in which you can partake in these conservation efforts.
On Bonaire, there are also a few restaurants that serve lionfish. It’s a delicious white meat fish that tastes great on a burger or in ceviche. Their fins are also turned into beautiful jewellery. These are all fun ways to aid in the island’s conservation efforts.