Few people are aware of the dangers lionfish pose to coral reefs. And the ASJA Boys' Scuba and Reef Conservation Club has been actively involved in lionfish eradication and public education.
Founder of the club and school teacher Faeid Ali said the greatest threat to the coral reefs was the invasive lionfish, which gorges on juvenile reef fish.
His pupils have taken on the challenge of protecting the coral reefs, a major tourism product in Tobago.
The club has been actively involved in lionfish eradication and public education.
Ali said the club has installed an aquarium at ASJA Boys' College in San Fernando to showcase the lionfish and its interaction with other fishes and corals.
He said pupils and guest would enjoy seeing living lionfish in a saltwater aquarium.
And soon, through the support of avid diver and Republic Bank (Tobago) branch manager, Shedley Branche, the aquarium would be upgraded to support coral growth.
He said, “Soon the aquarium will boast living corals through the generous support of Mr Shedley Branche, the Branch Manager of Republic Bank Tobago, an avid diver, who understands firsthand the threat to Tobago's marine ecosystem the lionfish poses. Mr Branche and members of his team generously donated all the equipment required to upgrade the aquarium to support coral growth. Students and guests can witness the aggressive feeding nature of lionfish during feeding times as they are fed a diet of live fish to maintain the health of our ambassador lion fishes affectionately called 'Peanut butter' and 'Chocolate'.”
A lionfish in the saltwater aquarium at ASJA Boys' College, San Fernando.
Ali said the club intends to expand its education campaign by inviting schools to visit its aquarium. Pupils would be allowed to participate in an education programme during their visit to make them aware of this growing marine problem, he said.
He said young divers would continue to undergo training through the PADI Rescue Diver programme.
Ali said the lionfish population in Tobago's waters remains a growing problem. But the cost of renting dive gear, interisland flights, accommodations costs and other associated costs prevent many individuals from hunting the lionfish to degrees that could not only control but reduce the lionfish population.
He said greater support was needed to encourage the hunting of lionfish.
Pupils of the ASJA Boys' Scuba and Reef Conservation Club have made several diving trips to Tobago not only to hunt lionfish but to remove garbage from the water.