Since 2015 I have served as science advisor for the Clear This Fish Foundation in Panama. The mission of CTFF, founded in 2009, is to educate and encourage local recreational divers to remove invasive Indo-Pacific lionfish from the coral reefs of the Panamanian Caribbean.
In late 2016 we conducted a research expedition to assess the effectiveness of these removals on the health of the coral reefs and fish communities. Our initial results were very promising: lionfish densities were generally low on reefs where divers hunted lionfish most often (less than 0.5 lionfish / 100 m2), and there were no detectable effects of lionfish on the native fish communities.
These results suggest that recreational divers can have strong effects on the abundance of lionfish and can serve as an effective means to control the population of this invasive predator. The Clear This Fish Foundation will continue its efforts to encourage local diving and fishing communities to be actively involved in combating the lionfish invasion in Panama.