Shoot-to-cull: A group of volunteers has been trained on how to handle the poisonous Lionfish and licensed to use spears to reduce the number of the invasive species in Bermuda’s waters, the Environment Ministry announced yesterday. *MCT photo
Shoot-to-cull: A group of volunteers has been trained on how to handle the poisonous Lionfish and licensed to use spears to reduce the number of the invasive species in Bermuda’s waters, the Environment Ministry announced yesterday. *MCT photo
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A poisonous and potentially harmful fish species has become the target of a government sponsored cull programme.

The first group of volunteers has been licensed to participate in a pilot programme to cull invasive Lionfish, the Department of Conservation Services said in a press statement.

The 31 volunteers have been issued special licenses by the Ministry of the Environment and Sports to use scuba gear and to spear within the one mile limit that is legislated for spear fishing activities.

Before being issued licenses, the volunteers participated in an information and education session covering all aspects of how to safely handle the Lionfish.

Terms of the licence require divers to fly a special flag that includes the diver's down flag (red background with a white diagonal strip) and also includes a picture of a Lionfish.

"The Lionfish constitutes a real threat to Bermuda's reef ecosystem and commercial fishery," Environment Minister Elvin James said in the statement.

"These invasive fish have already decimated areas of the Caribbean and it is incumbent on us in Bermuda to do all we can to protect our marine ecosystem.

"In fact, even though this problem is relatively new to Bermuda, we are already being hailed by other countries and international organizations as an example of proactive management of Lionfish," he said.

If any member of the public sees a Lionfish in the water they are advised not to approach it.

They are urged to call the Marine Conservation Officer at 293-4464, ext 146, or email lionfish@gov.bm.

Members of the public can also call or e-mail if they are interested in participating in the cull programme.