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What is an invasive species and why are they a problem?

LF01 small An invasive species is a non-indigenous organism that adversely affects natural habitats and bioregions. Invasive introductions often result from careless human activity whether intentional or accidental, the results of which are likely to cause economic, environmental and/or ecological harm. While all species compete to survive, invasive species appear to have specific traits or combinations of specific traits that allow them to out-compete native species. Sometimes they simply have the ability to

grow and reproduce more rapidly than native species; other times it's more complex, involving a multiplex of traits and interactions. 

Common invasive species traits include: Fast growth rates, rapid/frequent reproduction, high dispersal ability, phenotypic plasticity (the ability to alter one's growth form to suit current conditions), tolerance of a wide range of environmental conditions (generalist), and the ability to live off of a wide range of food types (generalist).


Invasive species often coexist with native species for an extended time, and gradually the superior competitive ability of an invasive species becomes apparent as its population grows larger and denser and it adapts to its new location. (Note: Because the introduction of invasives is not a naturally occurring process, it does not fall under the umbrella of natural selection or survival of the fittest). With the introduction of a species into an ecosystem that can multiply and spread faster than the native species, the balance is changed and the resources that would have been used by the native species are now utilized by an invader. This impacts the ecosystem and changes its composition of organisms and their use of available resources.


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Economic costs from invasive species can occur through loss of recreational and tourism revenues. This is a particularly the case with the invasive Pterois volitans (lionfish) on Roatan where so much revenue is dependent on the tourism industry. When economic costs of invasions are calculated as production loss and management costs, they are low because they do not consider environmental damage; if monetary values were assigned to the extinction of species, loss in biodiversity, and loss of

ecosystem services, costs from impacts of invasive species would drastically increase. 


The Roatan Marine Park Invasive Lionfish Control Program

In an effort to reduce the destructive impact of the invasive Pterois volitans (lionfish) on the coral reef ecosystem of Roatan, the Roatan Marine Park has employed a proactive stance, directly engaging the community in controlling the proliferation of this species. The RMP Invasive Lionfish Control Program focuses on the dissemination of information through educational workshops that cover topics such as; lionfish ecology, potential impacts of lionfish infestations both environmentally and economically, first-aid treatment and goals

Originally Location of Lionfish

of the program immediate and future.


To increase the success of lionfish cullings, the Marine Park requested and received permission from DIGIPESCA (the governing agency for fisheries in Honduras) to distribute spears within the community to be used exclusively on lionfish to aid in controlling the population. DIGIPESCA delegated authority to the Marine Park to develop the program and regulate and enforce the agreed upon rules of the program as discussed between the two agencies. Together, with the help of participants in this program, the RMP is hopeful it can manageably control the population of lionfish within the marine reserve and thus reduce their destructive impacts on Roatans' reef habitat.


Acquire your lionfish license

This program will consist heavily on proper spear usage and spatial awareness, and an agreement on prudent spearing ethics.

Our lionfish program consists of signing a MOA (memorandum of agreement) stating that the participants will abide by all lionfish regulations and if caught breaking any, agree that the seizure of the spear and license will be accepted. After signing our MOA and our standard liability release, participants will receive a brief talk on lionfish, along with a booklet on lionfish published by the RMP.

The in-water part of the workshop consists of participants showing the evaluator that they can handle a spear with an adequate level of skill. While either snorkeling or diving, participants must shoot targets (coconuts) which represent lionfish which have either been hidden in the reef or within the course set up in Half Moon Bay.


Spear competency must be displayed, along with spatial awareness. Divers must not touch anything while spearing and can not miss the targets and hit the surrounding reef. If they do so, they will be warned once and then failed if they do so again.

The Workshop will take approximately an hour depending on participant numbers. Workshops will be held in the Dive Shop of Subway Watersports. You can book your course at the counter in the Dive Shop.

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All licensed lionfish hunters will have to have their own spear. Each spear will be issued to ONE hunter and will be entered into the database under that individuals name and number.

If you have your own spear already, bring it. If not, one will be issued to you.

If you have your own spear and DO NOT pass our workshop we will be responsible for holding on to your spear until you pass. You may participate in as many workshops as it takes at no additional cost.

What about snorkelers?

Snorkelers can get licenses and will have to sign all agreements stated above. They will be issued a different format of license and if they wish upgrade to a diving one will have to go through the workshop again using scuba gear.

What about vacationers?

Vacationers will have to do the same as everyone else but when they return their spear they'll receive a rebate and the spear will be recycled into our local fisherman education program.



From ZERO to HERO will be $50 per person including a personal spear gun.

If you have your own spear it will only cost $20 but you must bring your spear with you for the course for engraving and entrance into the database.


When does the license expire?

Your license is property of The Roatan Marine Park and is issued on behalf of DIGEPESCA. As long as we don't have a breach of prudent lionfish practices the licenses will be valid for 2 years. To renew your license a new check will be necessary.


Renewal fee

The fee will be $20 and includes the workshop and a new license.



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