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Hunting Lionfish Safely and Responsibly in Curaçao

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Curaçao, a picturesque island in the southern Caribbean, is not only renowned for its stunning beaches and vibrant culture but also for its commitment to preserving its marine ecosystems. One of the key threats to these delicate ecosystems is the invasive lionfish. To combat this menace, responsible hunting practices are crucial.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore how to hunt lionfish safely and responsibly in Curaçao, including the use of pole spears (the only legal method in Curaçao). We will provide you with the top 10 safe hunting practices, including the use of a Zookeeper. We will also address what to do if you are stung by a lionfish and emphasize the importance of consulting with local experts before embarking on your lionfish hunting adventure.

Why Safe and Responsible Lionfish Hunting is Important

Lionfish (Pterois spp.) are native to the Indo-Pacific region but have become invasive predators in the Caribbean, including the waters surrounding Curaçao. Their voracious appetite for native fish species and rapid reproduction rates poses a severe threat to the delicate balance of marine ecosystems in the region. The introduction of lionfish has led to a decline in native fish populations and the degradation of coral reefs.

To counteract the lionfish invasion, responsible hunting practices are essential. Hunting lionfish can help control their population and protect the native marine life of Curaçao’s waters. However, it is imperative to follow safe and responsible hunting techniques to minimize the impact on the environment and ensure the safety of both divers and the marine ecosystem.

Understanding the Pole Spear

In Curaçao, the only legal method for hunting lionfish is using a pole spear. It’s important to note that a pole spear is distinct from other spearfishing equipment, such as a Hawaiian sling or a spear gun with a trigger mechanism. The use of Hawaiian slings or spear guns with triggers is illegal in Curaçao for lionfish hunting due to safety and conservation concerns.

lionfish

A pole spear consists of a long, slender pole with a pointed tip, often made of stainless steel or fiberglass, designed for precision and accuracy. Unlike a trigger-based spear gun, a pole spear requires the diver to manually draw back on a rubber band then release towards the target, providing a more controlled and selective approach to hunting.

How to Hunt Lionfish Using a Pole Spear Responsibly

When using a pole spear to hunt lionfish, it’s crucial to do so responsibly to ensure the safety of both the diver and the marine environment. Here are some essential guidelines on how to hunt lionfish using a pole spear responsibly:

  1. Safety First: Always prioritize safety when diving and hunting. Ensure you have the necessary training and experience for hunting lionfish. Consider the Lionfish Scuba Dive Experience offered by Ocean Encounters. This opportunity allows participants to learn under the expert guidance of local scuba diving professionals.
  2. Check Regulations: Familiarize yourself with local regulations and restrictions related to lionfish hunting in Curaçao. Respect no-take zones and marine protected areas.
  3. Target Only Lionfish: Use your pole spear exclusively for lionfish hunting. Do not attempt to spear any other species, as this can harm the fragile ecosystem.
  4. Aim for Precision: Approach your target lionfish carefully and aim for a precise shot to minimize the risk of injuring other marine life or damaging the coral reef.
  5. Use a Zookeeper: A Zookeeper is a specialized container designed to safely store and transport lionfish after capture. It prevents the lionfish’s venomous spines from causing harm and keeps them secure during the dive.
  6. Respect Lionfish Anatomy: Target the head of the lionfish and stay away from its venomous spines. Aim for a clean and humane kill to minimize suffering.
  7. Avoid Overhunting: Do not overhunt lionfish in a single dive. Limit the number of lionfish you catch to what you can safely handle and process.
  8. Practice Good Buoyancy: Maintain excellent buoyancy control to avoid inadvertently damaging the reef or stirring up sediment, which can harm marine life.
  9. Dispose Responsibly: Once you’ve caught lionfish, carefully place them in your Zookeeper. Do not release them back into the water, as they are invasive and harmful to the ecosystem.
  10. Report Your Catch: If applicable, report your lionfish catch to local authorities or organizations involved in lionfish management to contribute to data collection efforts.

In the Unlikely Event of a Lionfish Sting

While lionfish stings are rare, it’s essential to know how to respond if you or someone you are diving with is stung. Lionfish have venomous spines that can cause pain, swelling, and even more severe reactions in some cases. Here’s how to respond to a lionfish sting:

  1. Signal for Help: Notify your diving buddy or group immediately if you are stung.
  2. Remove Spines: If the spines are still embedded in the skin, carefully remove them with tweezers or a clean, sterile tool. Be cautious not to break the spines, as this can release more venom.
  3. Clean the Wound: Rinse the affected area with warm water to help alleviate pain and reduce the risk of infection.
  4. Pain Management: Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help with pain and swelling. However, if you experience severe symptoms, seek medical attention promptly.
  5. Seek Medical Help: If the pain and swelling worsen or if you have an allergic reaction to the venom, seek medical assistance immediately.

Consult Local Lionfish Experts

Before embarking on a lionfish hunting adventure in Curaçao, it’s crucial to consult with local and responsible dive shops or organizations dedicated to lionfish management, such as Lionfish Caribbean.

lionfish

These experts can provide valuable insights, tips, and up-to-date information on how to hunt lionfish safely and responsibly, hunting locations, safety measures, and environmental conservation efforts.

Start Planning your Next Caribbean Adventure

Knowing how to hunt lionfish safely and responsibly in Curaçao is not just an exciting underwater activity but also a crucial step in protecting the island’s marine ecosystems. By using a pole spear and adhering to the top 10 safe hunting practices, including the use of a Zookeeper, you can contribute to the control of the invasive lionfish population while preserving the delicate balance of Curaçao’s underwater world.

Remember that safety should always be your top priority when diving and hunting lionfish. In the unlikely event of a lionfish sting, knowing how to respond can make all the difference. By consulting with local experts and following ethical and legal guidelines, you can enjoy a rewarding and responsible lionfish hunting experience while safeguarding the beauty of Curaçao’s marine environment for generations to come. Please always dive safely and responsibly, and together, we can make a positive impact on Curaçao’s underwater world while learning how to hunt lionfish effectively.

Bryan Horne wasn’t born in Curaçao; he’s a Canadian native, drawn to the Island “out of a passion for scuba diving and the underwater world.” Moving was always going to be a life-changing decision, but in diving, Bryan had found his calling. As the founder and owner of Dive Curaçao, he spends his days showing off Curaçao’s hidden undersea treasures – and does his part to preserve them for future generations.

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Mamma Mia! Diving Skopelos (Part 1)

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If you have a dream of a sunny holiday spot with great diving, take a chance on Skopelos!

A small island in the Sporades of the Northern Aegean Sea, Skopelos is a quintessential Greek island, with warm mediterranean climate, friendly locals, delicious cuisine and clear turquoise blue waters. It is such a stunning location that many of the scenes from the movie “Mamma Mia!” were filmed on and around the island.

The diving here is excellent, with good visibility and warm summer water temperatures making for relaxed diving conditions with plenty to see.  Skopelos has something for everyone and is a perfect location if you are holidaying with non-divers, want a mix of diving and land based activities or simply to spend some time relaxing in the sun.  The island has a wealth of diversions: picture perfect beaches, a thriving and picturesque harbour town, great food, boat trips, and beautiful resorts with well-stocked pool bars and sun loungers for topping up the tan in style.  

Having read about the beautiful diving available Mike and I were excited to experience it for ourselves. During our stay we dived with Skopelos Dive Center at their West coast Panormos base. On arrival we were greeted by Lina and Tasos, who provided our equipment and briefed us on the day’s dive plan.  The first dive was to be at the Gallery and the second at Dasia Lift.  Eager to get in the water, we were soon kitted up and on the boat heading out to our first dive.

The island of Skopelos is blessed with some incredible topography.  We marveled at the views of nearby Dasia Island where the dive sites were located; the bright green pine forests covering white limestone and dolomite rocks along the coastline contrasted nicely with the clear azure waters below.  As we would find on our dives, the many sea caves along the shore made for great swimthroughs and caverns to explore on dives and the bright white rocks reflected the sunlight for beautifully lit and colourful seascapes in the shallows.

Our dive at the Gallery began on a sloping wall with multiple pinnacles, the first of which had a huge and completely beautiful Hypselodoris elegans nudibranch.  Following the wall deeper we came to a cavern filled with sponges, tunicates, corals and cardinal fish.  Working shallower and enjoying the light reflecting off the pale rocks and deep blue of the deeper water we came to the Gallery’s namesake passage at a very shallow 1.5 meters.  A tunnel in the rock created this wonderful feature, while light played through the shallows illuminating the benthic life as our group swam through.

All the dive sites in this area were a very short boat ride from the dock so travel times to and from the dives was a matter of minutes.  After a break back on land with a frappe from the resort bar, we headed out for the second dive at Dasia Lift. The wall here featured a cavern and tunnel swim through rising from 10m to 5m.  Once again my eye was caught by some nudibranchs (Hypseldoris coelestis and Flabellina affinis) as well as several large groupers lurking in the deeper waters.  Having enjoyed the wall at around 20m we worked our way up to 10m and to the entrance to the Lift where we stopped to appreciate a huge sea slug which posed graciously for a few photos. 

The Lift was a fun swim through with windows of light illuminating sponges and a rather grumpy looking scorpionfish.  Emerging at 5m the light in the shallows was nothing short of breathtaking.  The combination of sun streaming down on the white rocks and beautiful blue hue of the sea made the light dance, creating underwater rainbows.  All divers surfaced wishing the safety stop could lasted just a little longer.

That evening, having worked up an appetite diving, we had one of our best meals of the trip, the traditional specialty of giouvetsi; served beside the bobbing boats in the old port it was nothing short of stupendous.  Despite our discovery of a microbrewery taproom, it was an early night as the next day’s dive was to the famous Christoforos wreck!

As a destination, Skopelos really has everything you could ask for both for a diving holiday and a fun summer vacation.  Look for our next blog “Mamma Mia! Diving Skopelos (Part 2)” for details on our trip to the Christoforos wreck!

Thanks to:

Municipality of Skopelos (https://skopelos.com/

Skopelos Dive Center  (https://sporadesdiving.gr/)

Ionia Hotel (https://www.ioniahotel.gr/en)

Dolphin of Skopelos (https://dolphinofskopelos.com/)

Ta Kymata restaurant (@takymata)

The Muses restaurant (https://www.facebook.com/TheMussesMousses/)

Aktaiov resturant (https://skopelos.com/listings/aktaion-taverna/)

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Invitation from The Ocean Cleanup for San Francisco port call

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6 years ago, The Ocean Cleanup set sail for the Great Pacific Garbage Patch with one goal: to develop the technology to be able to relegate the patch to the history books. On 6 September 2024, The Ocean Cleanup fleet returns to San Francisco bringing with it System 03 to announce the next phase of the cleanup of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and to offer you a chance to view our cleanup system up-close and personal.
We look forward to seeing you there.

To confirm your presence, please RSVP to press@theoceancleanup.com

PROGRAM

Join The Ocean Cleanup as our two iconic ships and the extraction System 03 return to San Francisco, 6 years and over 100 extractions after we set sail, to create and validate the technology needed to rid the oceans of plastic.
Our founder and CEO, Boyan Slat, will announce the next steps for the cleanup of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Giving you a chance to view our cleanup system and the plastic extracted.
Hear important news on what’s next in the mission of The Ocean Cleanup as it seeks to make its mission of ridding the world’s oceans of plastic an achievable and realistic goal.
Interviews and vessel tours are available on request.

PRACTICALITIES 

Date: September 6, 2024
Press conference: 12 pm (noon)
Location: The Exploratorium (Google Maps)
Pier 15 (Embarcadero at Green Street), San Francisco, CA
Parking: Visit The Exploratorium’s website for details.
RSVP: press@theoceancleanup.com
Video & photo material from several viewing spots around the bay

We look forward to seeing you there!

ABOUT THE OCEAN CLEANUP
The Ocean Cleanup is an international non-profit that develops and scales technologies to rid the world’s oceans of plastic. They aim to achieve this goal through a dual strategy: intercepting in rivers to stop the flow and cleaning up what has already accumulated in the ocean. For the latter, The Ocean Cleanup develops and deploys large-scale systems to efficiently concentrate the plastic for periodic removal. This plastic is tracked and traced to certify claims of origin when recycling it into new products. To curb the tide via rivers, The Ocean Cleanup has developed Interceptor™ Solutions to halt and extract riverine plastic before it reaches the ocean. As of June 2024, the non-profit has collected over 12 million kilograms (26.4 million pounds) of plastic from aquatic ecosystems around the world. Founded in 2013 by Boyan Slat, The Ocean Cleanup now employs a broadly multi-disciplined team of approximately 140. The foundation is headquartered in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and opened its first regional office in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in 2023.

Find out more about The Ocean Cleanup at www.theoceancleanup.com.

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