A Comparison of Eight Country Plans for the Invasive Indo-Pacific Lionfish in the Wider Caribbean [graduate project].
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The coastal Caribbean region is generally characterized by the following ecosystems: coral reefs, mangroves and seagrasses, also including other environments, such as sandy beaches and rocky shores. These tropical ecosystems incorporate a high diversity of associated flora and fauna and have significant ecological, aesthetic, economic and amenity value to the countries and territories of the region. Moreover, the islands collectively encompass a major global marine biodiversity hot spot. Over the years, the multitude effects of climate change and marine invasive species (MIS) have posed a major threat to the island biodiversity and combined, the complexity of the interaction of these two global drivers has increasingly been showing devastating effects. Today, the Caribbean Sea is plagued with the invasive lionfish (Pterois volitans and P. miles). As the range of the lionfish throughout the Caribbean has grown and their abundance has increased, recognition that the lionfish poses a grave threat to the native marine ecosystems has prompted the development of lionfish management plans across the region. Eight (8) countries’ response and management plans for the lionfish were evaluated using the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) framework and their criteria and scoring assessment for state management plan and assessment consideration of climate change and/or changing conditions. The countries include Anguilla, Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Grenada, St. Eustatius, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the US Virgin Islands. Although specific strategies differ amongst the islands depending upon needs, culture, and individual circumstances, most of the plans include three main components: education and outreach, control and monitoring protocols, and research and information management. The research also provided a comprehensive perspective of the opportunities and obstacles to enhancing both individual country and regional management of lionfish species through the use of a Comparison Matrix. This ultimately led to suggestions for intra- and inter-country cooperation and the transfer and development of interventions which could thereby make a major contribution to the conservation of significant island biodiversity.