Lionfish, native to the Indo-Pacific Ocean, threaten reef systems throughout the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean by eating native fish of economic and ecological importance. In Belize, lionfish management depends primarily on nonprofit conservation organizations and incentivizing fishermen and divers to harvest the lionfish. Lionfish products, including meat sold by restaurants and jewelry made from the fins, create economic demands that encourage fishermen and divers to participate in population control. With the goal of exploring invasive lionfish management from interdisciplinary perspectives, I worked with the nonprofit organization, Reef Conservation International (ReefCI), on population monitoring and control and conducted independent research on the social and economic impacts of the sale and production of lionfish products. With ReefCI, based on Tom Owens Caye, I contributed to marine conservation efforts including lionfish harvesting and analyzing their stomach content, as well as surveys of commercial fish species, lobsters, conch, and coral reef health. On the mainland, primarily in Placencia, I interviewed women who make jewelry from lionfish and the owners and managers of restaurants that serve lionfish about the benefits and challenges of producing and selling these products. One major finding was that restaurants like to sell lionfish and it generates good profits; however, they complained that not enough lionfish are being harvested. This two-part project allowed me to gain a more comprehensive understanding of Belize’s lionfish management efforts.
April Richards, ’16
Sponsor: Andy McCollum