St. John Tradewinds News Photo Courtesy of Frank Cummings
GHS students, CORE volunteers and Low Key Waterrsports recently teamed up to protect local reefs from lionfish.
With the very real possibility of invasive lionfish spreading throughout the area, the Caribbean Oceanic Restoration and Education Foundation was founded three and a half years ago to fight the threat to local reefs.
CORE’s Caribbean Lionfish Response Program continues to educate the public about lionfish. Volunteers host informational workshops, give talks to community groups and recently teamed up with Gifft Hill School officials for the second time this year.
The St. John private elementary and high school GHS hosts “mini-mester” programs twice each year. These programs take students out of the classroom and allow them to choose from a variety of “real world” interests, ranging from theater and arts to athletics and even Scuba diving.
During the school’s previous “mini-mester” program several months ago, one group of students worked with CORE volunteers to help rid several bays of lionfish, explained Frank Cummings, owner of Virgin Islands Snuba Excursions and a CORE volunteer.
“CORE Foundation’s continued efforts of assisting the USVI community and abroad with their Caribbean Lionfish Response Program has once again formed a great union,” said Cummings. “GHS was impressed with CORE’s Caribbean Lionfish Response Program so much that they partnered their minimester program not once but twice this year.”
“In the first minimester, the first day was spent with public awareness presentations, as well as systematic search training and response training for the students,” he said. “This prepared the students for that week of snorkeling several bays in a systematic search as CORE responders extracted the lionfish found by the GHS students.”
The group successfully cleared several bays around St. John of all lionfish that week, Cummings added.
A second group of GHS students, with a grant from Friends of V.I. National Park’s School Kids in the Park program, used their minimester time to get certified in scuba diving with Low Key Watersports with an eye toward assisting in the lionfish response program, Cummings explained.
Recently, GHS’ second minimester program of 2013 expanded upon both of those previous programs, Cummings explained.
“For GHS’ second minimester of 2013, we took it up a notch,” he said. “This time the students were going to systematically search while scuba diving rather than snorkeling. The program was a success again and CORE looks forward to assisting other programs as well in the future.”
The program brought together the islands’ future stewards with dive professionals and CORE trained volunteers.
“As members of the dive industry, a concerned citizen of St. John, and an environmentalist, we at Low Key Watersports are on board to obtain additional information, and further research regarding the possible devastating effects the Lionfish will have in the Virgin Islands,” according to a prepared statement by the dive company. “We are currently establishing our own guidelines to which we can offer the community solutions and co-exist with this invasive species.”
For more information about CORE, to schedule a presentation or training or to report a lionfish sighting, call (340) 514-4625 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.