Gifft Hill School students Craig Dawson, Evan Jones, Landis Wallace, Shawn Attika, and Luke Patrie record what they found in Mary’s Creek near Annaberg.
Gifft Hill School sixth, seventh and eighth graders removed 150 pounds of trash from Annaberg, Mary’s Creek and Francis Bay last month, but the environment might have benefited more from the two fish they nabbed.
During the field trip in October, the students bagged two lionfish off Francis Bay and Maho Bay, according to GHS teacher Jason Siska.
“Evan Jones, a sixth grader, had spotted the second lionfish we caught at Maho a couple of days earlier while he was out paddle boarding,” said Siska. “He led us right to the location where I proceeded to capture it with a net. The kids were very excited to have been part of the effort to get rid of the invasive lionfish.”
GHS teacher Jason Siska nets a lionfish, capturing two in total during the beach clean up.
After nabbing the fish, GHS invited Caribbean Oceanic Restoration and Education founder Karl Pytlik, who also manages the Friends of V.I. National Park Store, to speak to the group about the dangers lionfish pose for local waters.
“Lionfish can grow more than nine inches per year, mature in less than one year, reproduce year-round and are capable of laying 30,000 eggs every four days,” said Siska. “They can eat prey up to 75 percent of their own body size, and have venomous spines and no natural predators in the Atlantic.”
CORE and Pytlik are working to combat the lionfish invasion with a unique proactive program. The Caribbean Lionfish Response Program is a collaborative effort of dive shops donating boats at reduced rates, volunteer divers donating their time and money and commercial fishermen, whose eyes and efforts throughout the waters of the Caribbean are invaluable.
“All these components are working together toward one common goal, keeping the Caribbean lionfish free,” said Siska. “Each component plays a vital role in the success of the program. It is not about making money, but rather saving our marine ecosystem and preserving our underwater world as we know it today.”
“This will enable future generations the enjoyment of our beautiful underwater world as we know and enjoy it today,” said the GHS teacher.
The Caribbean Alliance, which was started on March 25, is a unified effort between territories and countries running the Caribbean Lionfish Response Program as one. The USVI, BVI and Puerto Rico are now working together toward this one common goal.
For more information about CORE or how to help the effort to reduce lionfish in local waters, check out nolionfish.com.