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Charlotte Amalie
Sunday, July 14, 2024
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The Lionfish Story

Dear Source:
After having read the lionfish story, which was crafted to look like our local DPNR agents have this fish finding in hand, I am taken aback.
Nothing to dispute about what Mr. Coles says, nothing to dispute about the Source accepting the "experts" plan of action.
With all due respect to Mr. Coles, who is without doubt a good man and doing a great job with little help or resources, I would like to interject a bit of personnel experience.
I have been diving in Florida and the Bahamas for many years, and when lionfish were found there I watched as the scientist, and local DPNR people said the same things and took the same actions. It's as if the answer to any problem is found in some law / book/ teaching and yet the result of following the book/law/teaching led to an infestation of the Bahamas and Florida that is undeniably unstoppable.
Florida has the Gulf of Mexico to replenish its species; the Bahamas has the entire Bahamas bank for replenishing its fish stocks, for now. As the infestation spreads that soon may be in question. We here on St. Croix only have the coast of our island and the Lang Banks; our tropical fish have no outside replacements, neither do our conch, lobster and pelagic.
So I am not trying to make big waves here on St. Croix, upset the apple cart, or cause panic, but after having watched the "experts/ scientist/and officials" make a mess of the lionfish epidemic in the Bahamas and Florida, I have a responsibility to bang my drum and sound the alarm as much as I want to. The sea doesn't belong to DPNR, the experts and the government; it is ours, all of ours. We have a right to expect those who exercise authority in matters concerning our waters to listen. Now the experts and officials are free to tear apart what I have said above, but a simple common sense fact remains, the knowledge they rely on has failed to protect the Bahamas and Florida. The problem has spread as far as the Carolinas and down to our neck of the woods. People here for years have been questioning when they will get here, and that day has arrived; it may be one transit but it was here and where one is found so too may others be found.
I see no preventative measures in the article in the Source, only mumbling about funding and research, no call to those divers and fishermen already in position to help being asked to do so, and no plan to check the arriving vessels who discharge there ballast in our waters. Can anyone deny that this is how the lionfish that was found got here?
I can't ask anyone to print this as an editorial because I am not a scientist with some great record of success in stopping infestations like this, I'm not the brightest person either, I'm just a guy that loves the waters around St. Croix. I love our fish, our coral and our people, who, in my opinion, will face a great change in their heritage if this infestation goes challenged only by research and scientific studies. If the only answer to this fish being found is: let's do a genetic study to determine where it came from, request funds to catch them and wait for the wheels of government to catch up, then we deserve to get exactly what the people of the Bahamas and the east coast of Florida got: some scientist saying the problem is irreversible, some government trying to get the local people to eat lionfish, and some child getting poisoned while swimming in our empty waters.
Once upon a time a man could go to any of our shores and catch one fish big enough to feed his whole family and when this became rare, scientists were called in to study it. The government passed laws about over fishing, and yet a man still can't go to our shores and catch one fish big enough to feed his family.
The moral of this is that once it's gone, it's gone, and scientists and governments don't provide answers just facts and regulations. To wait for scientists and governments to act is like surrendering. It's time for a change.
Paul Vrabcak
Frederiksted, St. Croix

Editor's note: We welcome and encourage readers to keep the dialogue going by responding to Source commentary. Letters should be e-mailed with name and place of residence to visource@gmail.com.

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