Category Archives: Lionfish

Successful lionfish jewelry workshop in Deep Creek

Local children used nail polish to color and varnish their lionfish fins before adding bows, bells, and sequins to create holiday ornaments.
Local children used nail polish to color and varnish their lionfish fins before adding bows, bells, and sequins to create holiday ornaments.

As invasive lionfish decimate Caribbean coral reef systems, consumptive fishery demand is promoted as one of the best ways to control their populations.  Recently, though, there is a new reason to find and spear the fish; the characteristic pectoral, pelvic, anal, and caudal fins of the fish are being dried and used by artisans and dilettante crafters to make jewelry pieces.  A battle that before was fought with knives, forks, and frying vats is now reinforced by needle nose pliers, silver fasteners, and 24-gauge wire.

LREP Manager Dr. Jocelyn Curtis-Quick helps students plan the construction of holiday ornaments out of lionfish fins.
LREP Manager Dr. Jocelyn Curtis-Quick helps students plan the construction of holiday ornaments out of lionfish fins.

The CEI Lionfish Research and Education Program (LREP) has worked hard this fall to encourage the spread of this new lionfish jewelry trend around Eleuthera.  In October they collaborated with the Eleuthera Arts and Cultural Center in putting on The Bahamas’ first-ever Lionfish Jewelry Making and Awareness Workshop.  Local artists Shorlette Francis and Sterline Morley joined the Arts and Cultural Center’s Audrey Carey to supply craft materials and construction guidance to the professional artists, handicraft enthusiasts, and community members in attendance.  CEI’s Dr. Jocelyn Curtis-Quick gave an overview of the invasion of the lionfish in the Caribbean and explained why it is so important to target these gluttonous fish.  The event was such a success that several local artists are now selling lionfish earrings and other jewelry in The Island School’s School Store and around the island.


Attendees were provided with lionfish fins as well as earring hooks, findings, paint, varnish, and beads in the construction of their pieces.
Attendees were provided with lionfish fins as well as earring hooks, findings, paint, varnish, and beads in the construction of their pieces.

With such positive outcomes from the first event, the CEI LREP team hopes to hold workshops in many more settlements around Eleuthera.  During The Island School’s Parents’ Weekend the team was ready to show visiting families how to incorporate additional recycled materials, such as aluminum cans, into lionfish fin pieces.  On December 2nd, the team conducted the second workshop open to the public, this one hosted at Deep Creek Middle School.  Over 30 community members attended to learn about current CEI research regarding lionfish and try their hands at crafting earrings and holiday ornaments.  With the growing community of lionfish jewelry producers and consumers, this new angle for controlling the invasion shows a tremendous amount of promise.

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Slayer Campaign Launches Year-Round

nehemiah lionfish
Deep Creek fisherman Nehemiah surfaces after spearing a lionfish off the Cape.  With CEI and The Island School purchasing lionfish from fishermen year-round, it is hoped that pressure will increase on these venomous, voracious, prolific, but delicious fish.

After its initial trial launch in April of this year and a successful 4-month run, the CEI Lionfish Research and Education Program’s “You Slay, We Pay” campaign has now been re-launched, this time permanently and year-round.  CEI and The Island School will be buying lionfish from local fishermen for the price of $11/lb for scaled fillets and $5/lb for whole fish.  This effort to increase demand for the invaders coincides with an increased effort to disseminate information to local fishermen regarding safe handling of the fish; knowledge of spine locations, best treatment of stings, and easy ways to de-spine the fish will hopefully aid fishermen targeting them. Continue reading

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Intern Update: Cassidy Edwards Gets Her Hands Dirty at CEI

Cassidy Edwards
Cassidy Edwards holds a green sea turtle before it is measured and tagged as part of an ongoing monitoring program.

Here is a update from Bahamian intern, Cassidy Edwards, who has been working with the Turtles, Lionfish, Sustainable Fisheries, and Flats teams:

Being here at CEI a few weeks, I got to do some amazing things that I hope will benefit research. On my first day, I went out to sea to retrieve BRUVs (Baited Remote Underwater Videos) with Eddie from the Turtle team. I got my first surprise of the day by pulling up a baby octopus. He wanted to stay stuck to the boat, but we let him free and he thanked us with ink. As the days passed, I began to help with setting BRUVs, and analyzing them, which was interesting. What I saw was spectacular; who’d have thought a crab and remora would be fighting for food!

Most of my days were spent in the field, placing BRUVs and doing turtle abundance surveys, or sometimes both. I even got to tag turtles for a study on juvenile turtle habitat use and body condition. As I continue here, I hope to tag more turtles and actually catch one.  Continue reading

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First-Ever Bahamian Lionfish Jewelry Making and Awareness Workshop a Huge Success

Lionfish fins swimming
The invasive lionfish, Pterois volitans and P. miles, is noted for its characteristic brightly colored fins and venomous spines.

The lionfish, an invasive predator from the Indo Pacific currently wreaking havoc on Caribbean and South American coral reef fish populations, was first introduced to the region through the exotic aquarium trade.  These beautiful carnivorous fish have characteristic orange and red stripes, spotted and striped pelvic and caudal fins, and flamboyantly colored wide-spreading pectoral fins, which they use to corral prey.  These fins, though possibly to blame as the instigators of the devastating invasion, are now offering a new way to help control the rampant spread of the predatory fish. Continue reading

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The Lionfish Team Breaks from Lab Work to Conduct Patch Reef Surveys


Speared lionfish patch reefs

balloonfish patch reefsNurse shark patch surveys

bigeye patch reef transect
(top) Lionfish are culled from select patch reefs every 3 months. During the latest round of patch reef surveys the team found (second-fourth from top) a balloonfish hiding in one site’s recesses, a nurse shark waiting when they entered the water at the next, and a bigeye fish normally only found at depths greater than 15 m.

For the past three seasons the Lionfish Research and Education Program, managed by Dr. Jocelyn Curtis-Quick, has been conducting an array of lab-based behavioral studies.  Projects have assessed everything from interactions between lionfish and Caribbean spiny lobsters to preferential prey consumption by the carnivorous invaders to possible collaborative hunting nature of the fish.  This fall brings a brief hiatus from lab-based work as data analysis and writing shift to the fore.

Field work for the lionfish team, on the other hand, continues.  Another round of quarterly surveys were performed in September on the patch reefs just North of the Cape, an area in which lionfish monitoring has been going on for the past 4 years.  These small and relatively self-contained reefs allow for comparisons between communities with and without lionfish, as the LREP program regularly culls lionfish from specified patches.  September surveys were completed and over the course of the dives 78 lionfish were sighted, ranging in size from 2-28 cm. In addition to common fish a nurse shark, bigeye, and balloonfish were spotted, as well as a small aggregation of masked or glass gobies – two species impossible to differentiate underwater.

Stay tuned for Eleuthera’s first Lionfish Awareness and Jewelry Workshop, a collaboration between CEI and Eleuthera Arts and Cultural Center!

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Simon Fraser University’s Gotta Catch ‘Em All

fish catching blog
Fiona Francis catches juvenile fish on the patch reefs to be incubated in sea water.

Summer 2014 was a fun but busy field season for the research team from Simon Fraser University. This was the first field season at Cape Eleuthera Institute for Fiona Francis, an MSc student studying the indirect effects of invasive lionfish under the supervision of Dr. Isabelle Côté. Two undergraduate field assistants, Kyla Jeffrey and Severin Vallaincourt, were assisting Fiona as well as working on small side projects of their own.

patch reefs south eleuthera
Schools of juvenile grunts, prey for invasive lionfish, often cover the patch reefs off the Cape in South Eleuthera.

The team spent most of the summer studying how invasive lionfish can change primary productivity on reefs. Native fish provide nutrients to algae and seagrasses, and Fiona was trying to determine if lionfish predation on these native fish reduced the availability of those essential nutrients. To do this the team spent long hours catching fish to determine the levels of nutrients excreted by different species into the water around them. While this might not sound too hard, fitting a wriggling, venomous, spiny fish into a Ziploc bag full of water  proved to be quite a difficult task! Continue reading

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Summer Research at CEI and Abroad – Check out our eNews!

The summer season at Cape Eleuthera Institute always sees a tremendous amount of activity.  Visiting scientists fly in, new interns and undergraduates arrive, and every now and then our own researchers spend some time off-island diversifying their studies.  This past summer, Lionfish Research Program RA Alicia Hendrix headed to Honduras to lead work with UK-based organization Operation Wallacea,  which offers volunteers a chance to assist scientists at field sites around the globe.

lionfish dissection for operation wallacea - alicia hendrix
Alicia Hendrix shows Operation Wallacea volunteers how to dissect a lionfish.

The Bay Islands of Honduras offer a unique research opportunity to contrast divergent fishing pressures on Caribbean lionfish communities.  Two sites – the Bay Island of Utila off the coast of La Ceiba and Tela, a mainland site just a few hours away – support very different reef-based economies.  Utila, a widely known and popular dive destination, is home to a dozen dive shops most with active lionfish culling programs, but is not a primary fishery for more commonly consumed Caribbean staples.  Tela, a site far less frequented, has been subject to harsh overfishing in past years, supports a reef fish community recovering from those pressures, and currently experiences little in the way of lionfish culling.  Contrasting the two can give researchers an idea of how factors such as lionfish spearing, regular exposure to divers, and more broadly targeted fishing practices might affect lionfish distribution and behavior. Continue reading

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Gap Year Students in the Field with the Lionfish and Sustainable Fisheries Teams

lionfish dissection external
During lionfish dissections, external total and standard length measurements are taken.

Gap Year students spent an afternoon with the sustainable fisheries program, dissecting lionfish and engaging in discussion about the invasive species. During the dissection students poked at lionfish visceral fat and removed the fishes’ venomous spines, among other organs. The dissection was a hands-on way to see how these habitat and feeding generalists thrive in the Bahamas. They eat during all hours of the day and, as a result, have more visceral fat than most fish. Understanding mechanisms which make lionfish such successful invaders is an important first step to effective management of the species.

After learning about the latest research regarding lionfish prey preferences and feeding habits, Gap Year students headed into the field to try their hand at catching prey fish for the lab.  Armed with fins, snorkels, and hand nets, the team of 5 targeted juvenile fish which could be used in lab choice trials.  Despite initial setbacks (catching fish has a learning curve!) the excursion was ultimately a success and a collection of damselfish, silversides, and grunts made their way back to the CEI wet lab.

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Brookwood School Visits CEI

Brookwood School students and teachers recently headed back to Massachusetts after their school’s first visit to Cape Eleuthera Institute. During their 6-day adventure the group was able to learn more about the sustainability initiatives in practice around campus and explore some of the local environments. After visiting these places, students were able to develop a better understanding of the impact that they as individuals and humans have on the marine environment.

Brookwood Educational Programs paige creek snorkel
Out for a snorkel in Paige Creek after learning about the importance of mangrove systems.

Students started off their adventure with field lessons in coral reef and mangrove ecology. When snorkeling to explore these areas, many were surprised by the warm water temperature and the abundance of colorful fish. So different from the coastal waters back home in the New England area! The group spent a lot of time in the water; they snorkeled above the aquaculture cage, explored some patch reefs, swam in a blue hole, visited Lighthouse Beach, and even went out on a night snorkel! Continue reading

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Local High School Teachers Consider Sustainability as a Part of Curriculum

PHAHS Teach 1
PHAHS teachers tour the CEIS farm and orchard looking at native Bahamian plant resources and sustainable practices.

Teachers and Vice Principal, Ms. Knowles, from Preston H. Albury High School came to visit during teacher’s planning week in late August. This visit served as the start to a collaboration regarding ways that CEI may support their curriculum planning with a focus on scientific research, native Bahamian resources, and small island sustainability. We hope that teachers of all subject areas, not just biology and the sciences but also math, English, art and other subjects, see a connection with the projects we have here at CEIS. Continue reading

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