October 27th 2009 the first lionfish was spotted on Curacao’s reef. Although it was a sign of what was to come, none of us had expected it to get this bad. In 2010 more lionfish were being spotted around the island to the point where it became a very serious concern for those involved in marine activities. At this point one member of our group of tight friends decided to do some field research on the situation and naturally involved the rest of us scuba-enthusiast. We built some spears and took an old bird cage down to 20 meters below Snake Beach to see if they could find any lionfish.
Four divers, one spear, and one bird cage, coming out with 4 lionfish. It must have been a crazy sight for the other reef fish to see. We counted only 14 lionfish that day, but knew there was something to be done! The second dive we saw 22 and shot 12, our methods were inefficient and dangerous but we were learning from our mistakes and from the data we collected.
We were soon diving much more often than we had before, pulling out more and more lionfish with our home-made spears. Obviously we had also quickly ditched the bird cage for bags… In the process however we started to dive at different times of the day and noticed that after 5:00pm there are many more lionfish than earlier on in the day, and during the morning they are even more scarce. Also that lionfish hide less during full moon. We used this information to our advantage and quickly noticed that there were way more lionfish than we has initially anticipated. It was obvious that we couldn’t take this on our own and that we needed to start raising awareness.
With perfect timing we were contacted by Allie Elhage, now an invaluable LET Diver who came to us with a funny looking tube which he claimed would make our hunts more efficient. He named it the ZooKeeper and boy did it over achieve! While LET tested the ZooKeepers and improved them along the way they were taking out hundreds of lionfish each dive. We only used one hand to shoot and simply stuffed the catch away into the tube without the hazard of being stung.
April 26th 2011 the infamous Facebook page was started. After each dive we would record our data in a detailed chart, take a photo of our catch and post it to our page with a description. Soon enough we had hundreds of followers of which many actively interacted with us. The support we gained from these people played a huge part in our perseverance concerning the lionfish invasion and we thank them for helping us spread the word!
Now that our organization has brought in some more passionate members we have been able to spread our message across near island such as Aruba and Bonaire. April 2012 we brought together teams and individuals from all these islands for our Lionfish Challenge. Prizes included BCDs, ZooKeepers and even a Suunto Dive watch. There was a lot to be learned and a lot of fish to be eaten, we consider this event another LET success.
LET is one of the most known lionfish eradication organizations right now and we aim to keep it that way by growing our relationships with our own and other governments, with marine biologists and specialists and of course the diving volunteers around the affected areas. We love all your support even if it is just a like or a reference to our page, our followers are the people who drive us and we thank all of those who have stuck with us up until now!
Best regards from the founders of LET
Cival Van Der Lubbe