At the beginning of 2020, Bocas Del Toro was labeled a “Hope Spot” by the international NGO “Mission Blue”.
Hope Spots are considered special places that are critical to the health of the ocean.
Invasive lionfish threaten native fish and the environment in Bocas del Toro, and throughout the Caribbean. Invasive species are capable of causing extinctions of native plants and animals, reducing biodiversity, competing with native organisms for limited resources, and altering habitats.
Lionfish do not belong in the Caribbean. Their natural habitat is in the South Pacific and Indian Oceans, where they are a normal and healthy part of reef ecosystems. The first sighting of this beautiful yet destructive fish was off the Florida coast and expanded quickly since, destroying native fish populations in the Caribbean and up the Eastern Seaboard.
Unfortunately for a little fish, these beautiful predators have a massive appetite!
Lionfish eat anything they can, native species however, including small reef fish like baby snapper and grouper, don’t recognize them as voracious predators. In the Bahamas, prey fish biomass fell by 65 to 95 percent after the invasion, says Stephanie Green, a marine scientist at Stanford’s Center for Ocean Solutions. Sharks here don’t see lionfish as a meal either. So the invaders spread, unchecked, devastating reef ecosystems and fisheries.
Lionfish are also prolific breeders, and can be found from shallow mangroves to non-reef habitats more than 300 meters deep, they’re very hard to wipe out once established. People are trying though.
Since April 2021 The team at Wasteless World has been investigating what is being done to help control the population here in Bocas del Toro and although there has been a number of efforts, it was clear that much more work needs to be done, or this beautiful and important part of our ocean may become another victim to this silent threat.
With the help of government authorities, NGO’s, conservations groups, local fishermen, artisans, dive schools, restaurants, supermarkets and general public at large Wasteless World is leading the way to create a culture of not only consuming this fish which thankfully is extremely nutritious and delicious but even turning the parts that aren’t the best for human consumption into either pet food or stunning works of art or jewelry.
Reduction of the population density of lionfish in the province of Bocas del Toro.
Contribute to scientific research and the development of a strategy for the manufacture of a manual for the control of lionfish in the Panamanian Caribbean.
Create a culture around the consumption of lionfish in the Bocas del Toro region and the Caribbean through public awareness.
(Unión de pescadores Artesanales Bocatoreños/ Bocatoreños Artisanal Fishermen Union)
On August 8th 2021 Wasteless World met with the local artisanal fishermen union in the community of Isla Popa to explain the importance of creating a solution for this invasive fish for the benefit of the environment but also for their livelihood. An important agreement was made to purchase all of the fish that they could extract regardless of size. We currently have a team of 10 local indigenous artisanal fishermen trained on how to extract lionfish in a safe manner without damaging other important organisms within the ecosystems in which they are found. Once we have a higher demand for the meat from the community we will train and facilitate more fishermen to join the hunt.
(The Aquatic Resources Authority of Panama)
Wasteless World is currently working through a framework cooperation agreement between the ARAP and the Wasteless World Foundation.
(El Ministerio de Ambiente /The Ministry of the Environment)
Wasteless World is currently working through a framework cooperation agreement between the MiAMBIENTE and the Wasteless World Foundation.
Specifically the Rotary Club of Bocas Del Toro, Newport Beach and Rotary Global Service Club have played a key role in helping to connect local restaurants and the local community with the problem to educate and incentivize their role in the overall solution.
We’ve had amazing support from the dive shops here in Bocas del Toro, all of which have not only been helping with the underwater cleanups events each month but have also been helping play a part in gathering data about Lionfish in certain dive areas and even helping to hunt them on occasions, in the not so distant future we will be coordinating full day eco-dive tours that include not only education around the species but how to hunt them correctly before going out to do so and finishing up the day by consuming the catch. Dive schools will play a vital role in data collection and scientific research as we move forward.
Local Restaurants and Meat suppliers
As of the 23rd of October there are now 9 businesses from the private sector where the community can support the movement by consuming this tasty meat here in Bocas del Toro, including;
- Cosmic Crab restaurant
- Bocas Sushi
- Sabroso meats
- Super gourmet
- Skullys bar and restaurant
- Raw sushi
- Bibi’s by the beach
- Ultimo refugio
- The Floating Bar
Wasteless World also met with the president of the indigenous artisans to show how parts of these fish can also be used to create unique and beautiful artwork or jewelry to further incentivize extracting the species.
Through public presentations, community events, social media channels and whatever means possible we have started to create solid awareness within the community about this problem along with the personal health and environmental benefits of consuming the lionfish meat.
Numbers Speak Louder then Words
Since focusing on putting all of the previously mentioned groups together, as of the 23rd of October we have successfully coordinated the removal of 1,029 lionfish from the waters of Bocas del Toro, in just a few short months. According to intensive studies by the government body NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) by doing so we have just saved over 5 Million important native prey fish over the next year.