The BVI are experiencing an invasion of lion fish, but because the invasion is still in its infancy, they are in a unique position where they can hopefully still eradicate the lion fish problem, and you can help. The Reef Guardian program has been set up for voluntary responses in the BVI, including the training and use of markers for divers and tourists to mark the fish where they are sighted.
The marking and removal of these fish is not actually as difficult as it may seem. They are extremely territorial and will say within feet of their territory until the food source runs out. To kill the fish they have been using a very simple method of scooping then into a net and carrying them up to the surface. This system works very well but does depend on the placement of the fish on the reef and sometimes needs two divers to maneuver the fish into the net. This is relatively effective now that they are only finding one or two fish on a reef at a time. In the future this will not work when there are multiple fish to kill on one dive.
After petitioning the BVI government since October 2010, they changed the spear gun law, now allowing certified dive instructors in the BVI who are employed by a BVI company, to carry Hawaiian sling guns. These are small spear tips attached to a thin line that is connected to a large rubber band. This new law will allow Reef Guardians to do multiple kills on one site and also prevents them from getting into close contact with the poisonous spines. The main issue with using working dive instructors, is that when employed in teaching they are not allowed to carry guns with students, therefore still making the need for designated lion fish hunters necessary.
The Reef Guardians are a dedicated and organized response team whose sole objective is to deal with the lion fish invasion in BVI waters. The team responds to reported sightings, removes the fish and searches the invaded area to remove other lion fish. At other times selected important sites chosen by Conservation and Fisheries Dept. BVI and the BVI National Parks Trust are targeted, surveyed on a routine basis, and the lion fish removed. The Reef Guardians are also responsible for education of both the local community and our visitors, in correct sighting techniques, marking and in some fields removing of the Lion Fish.
To learn more about how you can help by marking lion fish while you’re cruising in this area, go to www.reefguardians.com.