Initial sightings and derby data from the red lionfish invasion (Pterois volitans) (Scorpaeniformes: Scorpaenidae) in Barbados.
Background: Native to the Indo-Pacific region, the lionfish (Pterois volitans and P. miles) has been classified as an alien invasive species which has rapidly invaded the North-western Atlantic and the Caribbean. The primary concerns regarding lionfish pertain to their broad diet, general habitat use and their potential threat on fisheries resources, native fish communities and human health. Away from natural predators, lionfish populations can easily become established and pose a serious threat to local fish species and ecosystem functioning. The first confirmed sighting of the red lionfish (Pterois volitans) in Barbados was in November 2011. Throughout 2012, fishermen and recreational divers were encouraged to report sightings of lionfish via an established hotline. Where possible, sightings were confirmed by way of the fish being captured and handed over to the Barbados Fisheries Division or the East Coast Conservation Organization (ECCO) Inc. (an environmental NGO) for confirmation. In addition to confirmation, biological data (such as length, weight, sex and maturity) were also collected. Genetic research conducted on confirmed specimens collected between 2011-2013 identified the presence of only one species, P. volitans. Since the first confirmed sighting of the red lionfish in Barbados, it is believed that population numbers have steadily increased. One of the methods utilized in Barbados to control this alien invasive lionfish species is that of an annual derby. On 5 and 6 December 2015 and 13 November 2016, teams of divers (both free divers and SCUBA divers) took to the local waters to hunt for and kill lionfish. Caught lionfish were landed at scoring stations to be counted and allowed for the collection of basic biological data (such as length, weight, sex and maturity). In addition to biological data, teams (observers) also provided information on dive sites (locations) and associated geographic information (i.e. GPS coordinates), where available. New information: These two datasets, initial sightings (2012) and derby data (2015 and 2016), present the first collected data for the red lionfish (P. volitans) in Barbados. The two datasets are occurrence datasets which document the identification of >1500 lionfish removed from the waters of Barbados between 2011 and 2016.