First cull of the year in effort to tame lionfish

| 24/02/2016
Cayman News Service

Diver catching a lionfish

(CNS): As part of continuing efforts to control the population of the invasive lionfish, the first cull of 2016 will be held 27-28 February. Lionfish tournaments are organised throughout the year under the mantle of the Cayman United Lionfish League [CULL]. Members of the public are invited to attend the weigh-ins for both days, from 4-6pm at Duke’s Seafood & Rib Shack on West Bay Road. Free samples of prepared lionfish will be served at the event.

Mark Orr, from the Department of Environment (DoE) and a member of CULL, explained the importance of holding the culling events. “Lionfish are an invasive species to the Atlantic and Caribbean, and are a major threat to our fish populations and reefs. Being fairly new to our waters, the large predator fish do not see them as prey yet, so their numbers are increasing rapidly,” he said.

“They are also voracious eaters so they are wiping out the small grazer fish on the reefs. Without the grazers, our reefs become threatened from algae overgrowth which can smother the coral.”

Foster’s Food Fair recently donated $20,000 to assist CULL’s efforts in running the lionfish tournaments, which have been held for the last six years, in association with the DoE.

Reef pest becomes Cayman’s culinary delight

Foster’s, which has supported the tournaments from the outset, has been a gold sponsor since March 2014. The Cayman Islands Tourism Association [CITA] came on board to support this initiative in 2012.

“Foster’s is very happy to again partner up with CITA and CULL to work towards keeping the lionfish population down on our reefs,” said Woody Foster, the company’s managing director.

“The monies collected from a charge on plastic bags in the stores is being put to good use to assist with funding this and other environmental programmes in the community.”

Lionfish are proficient reproducers (one alone can produce 30,000 eggs every four days), making their population hard to manage. Cayman’s best tactic for controlling the lionfish population is to catch the lionfish and remove them from the reef.

“The dive industry has been doing a great job culling lionfish on a daily basis around the popular dive sites, but there is a lot of the island that is not reached by the dive industry,” Orr explained.

“CULL tournaments are an important part of the efforts to control lionfish because our teams travel to the areas around the island where divers do not go on a regular basis, cleaning out the majority of lionfish in those areas.”

The DoE analyses every fish caught at the culls and then sold to local restaurants, making these tournaments valuable both scientifically for data gathering, and socially by providing a sustainable local fish for people to consume.

“The Cayman United Lionfish League is very grateful to Foster’s for donating the money needed to run our tournaments for the third year in a row. We once again hope to put on four tournaments spread throughout the year. Foster’s sponsorship allows us to offer cash prizes to draw more teams to the tournaments and thus remove larger numbers of lionfish from our reefs,” Orr added.

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Category: Marine Environment

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