Simply Science: Saving Little Cayman from the lionfish

STILLWATER, Minn. - The emerald ash borer and zebra mussels are invasive species here in Minnesota. But in the Caribbean, it's the red lionfish.

In this week's Simply Science we meet a group of local students who'll be spending the summer saving Little Cayman Island from this unwelcome invader.

With oxygen tanks and diving fins... these high school students are preparing for a summer of adventure... hunting lionfish among the reefs of Little Cayman Island.

Instructor and trip organizer, Randy Christman teaches the kids, "You're going to stand on your head. Because most of the time when we're down looking under caves, looking for lionfish, that's the position you're going to be in. So it's critical that we learn that."

Stillwater sophomore Alex Borgen is looking forward to the scenery and the diving, "We'll be getting advanced and rescue diving lessons so we'll be in the top 1% of the world for diving, which I think is pretty cool."

Diving 4 hours per day from June to August, the students will work along a grid system laid out in biodegradable rope, removing lionfish from the reef.

Speaking of the lionfish, Christman says, "They don't realize that we're predators, so we're able to get close to them. So we're going to grid the system. We'll use traps for the deep water over the wall and then we'll work the shallower waters by diving."

Like other invasive species, the lionfish multiply quickly and the have big appetites.

Or as Stillwater sophomore Jake Cover puts it, "So they pretty much do whatever they want. They're not afraid of us, they're not afraid of anything."

Christma adds, "They're an apex predator, which means they eat everything and they are eaten by nothing. Even sharks will not challenge them."

Humans do eat the lionfish. The captured lionfish will be sold to restaurants and the profits will then be used to offset student travel and equipment costs...

They're still looking for more high school and college students as well adult chaperones for the Little Cayman trip.

If you're interested contact Randy Christman via phone at 651.775.3628 or via email at


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