First lionfish cull of the year set

| 23/02/2017
CNS Local Life

(L-R) Sponsors Julian Foster and Woody Foster; Katie O’Neill, of CULL; Tiffany Dixon-Ebanks, of CITA; and Mark Orr, of DoE and CULL

(CNS Local Life): The first lionfish tournament of 2017 is scheduled for 25 and 26 February, with each of the invasive species that is caught analysed by the Department of Environment (DoE), and then sold to local restaurants. The event, organised under the mantle of the Cayman United Lionfish League (CULL), protects Cayman’s shores, provides an opportunity for data gathering, and offers residents a viable local fish to enjoy.

The league has been organising tournaments for more than six years, where teams compete to cull the very invasive lionfish species that threaten Cayman’s coral reefs. The tournaments, which the Cayman Islands Tourism Association (CITA) have also supported since 2012, helped to address the problems associated with lionfish invasion, stated a CITA press release.

Their success is achieved through partnership with both the public and private sectors, and through participation and sponsorship commitments from various entities across the Cayman Islands.

Foster’s Food Fair has once again donated $20,000 to assist CULL’s efforts in running the lionfish tournaments, which have been held in association with the DoE. Foster’s has been supporting the culls from the inception of the league, and has been a gold sponsor since March 2014.

Julian Foster explained the company’s commitment. “Foster’s IGA utilises the proceeds from money collected for plastic bags to give back to environmental projects in the Cayman Islands,” he said.

“We feel that the lionfish threat to our natural environment is a great spend of these monies and we are thrilled to work with CULL in keeping this threat at bay while continuing to introduce lionfish as a delicious option on the food scene.”

Tiffany Dixon-Ebanks, executive director of CITA, said the association appreciated Foster’s support of the mission to cut the lionfish population in Cayman’s waters. “Through this partnership, stakeholders continue to bring awareness to this important issue while also adding to the menus of Cayman’s restaurants and the palates of diners,” Dixon-Ebanks said.  “I would also like to say thanks again to the Cayman United Lionfish League who continuously work to further this cause.”

Lionfish pose a major threat to fish populations and reefs. They are also voracious eaters so, without intervention, their excessive consumption of the small grazer fish on the reefs would continue. Without the grazers, the reefs become threatened from algae overgrowth, which can smother the coral.

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

Mark Orr, of DoE and a member of CULL, said, “The Cayman United Lionfish League is very grateful to Foster’s for once again being our gold sponsor for this year’s upcoming tournaments. We see these tournaments as an important part of the efforts to control the lionfish population, as they encourage cullers to travel to areas around the island that are not regularly culled.

“This allows for a lot more lionfish being removed from our reefs over a short period of time, which has proven to drastically reduce the amount of lionfish in those areas. Foster’s Food Fair-IGA’s donation allows us to incentivise the tournaments by offering cash prizes, which attracts more teams. It also allows us to spread the word about how good lionfish are as table fare, thus increasing the demand for lionfish in restaurants, which all works together to take more lionfish off the reef.”

Weigh-ins for this first cull will be on both nights from 4pm-6pm at Macabuca Bar & Grill in West Bay. Tournament T-shirts will be provided to all team members.

Registration, at $10 person, will take place today (23 February) at Macabuca between 5pm and 8pm.

For information on tournament rules and registration, email or call (916-4271) Mark Orr

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Category: Marine Environment

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