Invasive species in Barbados’ terrestrial ecosystems are well recognised. They include animals like mongooses, rats, mice, giant African snails and mealybugs which can wreak havoc on agriculture and native ecosystems. Recently, lionfish (Pterois spp.) became the first non-native marine fish to become established in the region. The establishment of lionfish was of concern as they are known to impact populations of reef fishes elsewhere. This has implications for reef health and fisheries. Since this introduction, sun corals (Tubastrea spp.) have also been found in the waters around the island. Unfortunately, these corals are known to compete with native corals for space.
A research project was undertaken to quantify the density of lionfish, as well as the impacts that lionfish have had on key reef fish populations and fisheries catch. This work determined that lionfish density has remained relatively low in Barbados. Lionfish have not had a significant impact on reef fishes important to coral health, neither have they impacted the number or size of fish being caught by reef fishers. Happily, spear fishing seems to be effectively controlling lionfish. Indeed, lionfish now make up 23% of spear fishing catch composition.
This project also tracked the spread of sun coral in Barbados’ near-shore waters. Sun corals are now found on many artificial structures in Barbados such as piers and shipwreck diving sites. Fortunately, they have yet to be found on coral reefs in Barbados, however, continued monitoring of their spread will be necessary. Scraping the colonies off of structures has shown to be an effective management practice thus far.
Halophila stipulacea, a type of seagrass, was identified as a potentially invasive species to look out for. Though it is not yet reported around Barbados, it has been known to take over native seagrass beds in other territories.
The Biodiversity Conservation and Management Section would like to thank the partners that made this project possible. Thanks are extended to the Global Environment Facility, the United Nations Environment Programme, the Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International and the Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies.
All photos are from Vallès, H., J. Walcott and H.A. Oxenford. 2023. Assessment and Management of Lionfish and Status of Other Marine Invasive Species of Threat to High Biodiversity-value Reef Ecosystems. Draft Final Report. Preventing Costs of Invasive Alien Species (IAS) in Barbados and Countries of the OECS Project. CERMES, UWI, Cave Hill, Barbados, 53pp. You can access this document below.