Pterois volitans, also known as the red lionfish, have aroused interest amongst Caribbean environmental agencies and not for good reasons. A venomous coral reef fish native to the Indo-Pacific ocean region, the red lionfish is both a health risk and inconvenience for many indigenous aquatic species, and humans who engage in maritime activities.
Wikipedia, speculates that the red lionfish entered the waters of Florida due to accidental spilling and/or illegal dumping from aquariums during Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Since then the population has multiplied, depleting native aquatic species, food sources and posing health risks to humans who come in contact with the fish’s dorsal spines. Yet despite their adverse effect on the native environment, they are edible. With this knowledge, the United States and many other Caribbean countries have allowed commercial fishing of red lionfish in an attempt to mitigate their population.
In White River, Jamaica, local organizations in collaboration with the US Peace Corps are educating fishermen and residents how to use this factor to their advantage. Making this potential health hazard edible, requires removal of the venom found in the species’ dorsal spines, and utilized mostly for defensive purposes. Extreme caution must be taken when handling the red lionfish. If a human were to become envenomed, possible health problem include extreme pain, nausea, headaches, paralysis, breathing difficulties and even death in rare situations.
The activities in White River, is only one of many examples Caribbean countries have taken. In addition Jamaica and four other Caribbean nations will benefit from a multi-million dollar project launched in September 2010 “which aims at to reduce the threat of aquatic invasive species to the region’s biodiversity.”
Arne Witt, AIS expert at the Center for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI), noted “In my experience in Africa, people are literally starving because of Invasive Alien Species,” If Jamaica doesn’t utilize the resources supplied to them efficiently, the lionfish possess an even greater threat to the island national economic slides in the tourism and fishery markets, two of the country’s main revenue sources.