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“Another great and eventful day on the island!”

Though we did a lot today, my favorite activities were spear-fishing
lionfish, dissecting them, and doing reef data transects.  There is
something so satisfying about letting go of that cocked spear and
seeing it hit its mark.  It is not the most humane way to kill
something unless you’re perfect aim, which I am not, but it is very
effective.

Lionfish are originally from the Indonesian island area and made it
into the waters off the coast of Florida by different
human-interference means.  Now they are decimating the native juvenile
fish populations all the way from North Carolina to the coasts of
Brazil.  The ultimate answer for the problem will be nature, as it
will always find a balance, but we can still do a little bit of our
part.  Apparently for every one lionfish we kill, we save 30,000 other
fish!

This fact was driven home during our catch dissections- we pulled an
8cm juvenile stoplight parrotfish from a 23cm lionfish!  They’ll eat
fish a third their own size and have very few predators.  These two
characteristics enable them to proliferate like mad.  And like mad
they do.  A student and I speared nine lionfish out of a single coral
overhang today.  Jayson, the island’s superb marine biologist, comes
back every boat trip with a bag full.  Might as well be a little
inhumane with a spear, save some of the indigenous fish, and put the
invasive species to good, as the cooks did by making us some delicious
lionfish tenders for dinner.

IMG_1446Ultimately, the staff on the island are keeping a close eye on the
health of the ecosystem as a whole, not just the effects of the
lionfish.  In the afternoon, guests that had a desire to participate
were able to join in on a scientific reef study.  We were put into
pairs and dived transect lines while recording fish and invertebrate
species, as well as the type of substrate along the bottom.  The
information produced from civilian scientist like this is essential
for monitoring the health of the local systems, as the manpower here,
and in most places around the world, is limited.  We were able to give
back while also gaining more knowledge and skill for ourselves.  Not
surprisingly, it was another great and eventful day on the island.
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