CULL takes bite out of lionfish population

| 04/03/2019
CNS Local Life
Drew McCarthur with his prize-winning smallest and largest lionfish (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

(CNS Local Life): Cayman United Lionfish League (CULL) organised another successful tournament aimed at reducing the numbers of this invasive species while raising awareness of the dangers the fish pose to Cayman’s marine ecosystem. Seven teams took part in the 28th cull this past weekend, with the theme specially for March: “In like a lionfish, out like a dinner dish”.

At the end of the two-day event held over 2-3 March, 461 lionfish weighing more than 81 kg had been caught in the sea around Grand Cayman, and turned into tacos, soup and crudités consumed by both participants and visitors. More than 500 lionfish dishes were served over the weekend, all prepared and cooked by Dayne Brady, of Clean Gas, and his team.

CNS Local Life
Joe Avary serving up lionfish dishes (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

One of founders of CULL, vice chair Katie O’Neill, explained the importance of events like this, which have been held since the organisation was formed in 2008. “We know these tournaments are working to help keep our reef clear of lionfish and Cayman United Lionfish League is committed to continuing to hold this competition several times a year for that reason,” she told CNS Local Life.

The Warhammer Maneuver team, comprising Joe Avary and Drew McCarthur, were big winners at the tournament, making big losers of the lionfish. Over the two days, they hauled in the most fish, at 55 per culler, the heaviest total (16.4kg), the biggest (316mm) and the smallest (20mm).

Avary said he and teammate McCarthur worked hard to achieve the “grand slam” as winners in all the categories. “Hats off to Drew who taught me about what a menace the lionfish is in the first place and showed me how to be an effective hunter,” he added. “It was great to be in the tournament with my best friend and removing these lionfish from the reef…A great day I will remember forever.”

CNS Local Life
Dayne Brady cooked all the lionfish (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

O’Neill noted that the size of the lionfish has increased of late. “We saw some bigger lionfish culled on this tournament than we have seen in a while,” she said. “And while it didn’t set a new record, everyone marvelled at the tiny 20 mm long lionfish. Plus, everyone who tasted the delicious lionfish tacos and other dishes served were won over to our motto ‘Eat ‘Em to Beat ‘Em!’ ”

The CULL board will be meeting this week to discuss the latest tournament and decide when to hold the next one, she added, hoping for an early June date.

For more information on CULL, go to its Facebook page

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Category: Environment, Marine Environment

Comments (4)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    The tools to effectively cull lionfish need to be made more readily available to the citizens and residents of the Cayman Islands. I know of expat divers who have spearguns and provisional licensing to cull lionfish. I would like the same. As with the process for vetting green iguana cullers, the DOE needs to streamline the process so those interested in contributing can do so.

    Otherwise, we leave it up to those who step up to a very large place, as with the green iguana culling on the Sister Islands.

  2. Anonymous says:

    How do you get into lionfish culling these days? I took the course and am an avid diver but never get the chance to catch lionfish. I have a license but when I go to the dive shops, they don’t want to give the spears to shore divers. I have been turned down every time I asked for them for a shore dive. Last time I asked Sunset House and they said no and then I saw 3 on their house reef.

    I know there are people with spears and you could join a waiting list at the DoE to get one but it relies on someone turning one back in.

    I could join the competition but do they give spears to people or do the people need to have their own? I want to be able to try it out before being in a competition.

    Getting them as a local doing a boat dive might be okay but I would rather dive with my buddy and not the pack of dive tourists if we were going hunting. There would be pressure to stay with the group and also pressure from people watching me hunt.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I am always so surprised that these are only in the paper after the fact.
    These events need to be advertised more prior to, not the week after.
    I read the paper online every day but it must be advertised elsewhere, I just don’t hear/see it…

    • caymankatie says:

      I am sorry you missed coming to our tournament since you didn’t know about it. As we are a Not-For-Profit organization we really don’t have the money to publicize our events other than through our social media efforts on our Facebook page which we use to announce upcoming tournaments and offer other information about our culling efforts and reef preservation. May I invite you now to find us on Facebook at: and I promise we will let you know in advance when the next one will be held. (For now it is looking like early June).