Cullers needed for next lionfish tournament

| 22/05/2019
CNS Local Life
Zach Larrabee and Mark Orr of CULL filleting lionfish at previous event

(CNS Local Life): The Cayman United Lionfish League (CULL) will be holding another tournament aimed at reducing the numbers of this invasive species, amidst organisers’ concerns that the population may be increasing. The tournament is set for Saturday and Sunday, 8-9 June, at the George Town Yacht Club. While CULL aims to make the events fun and offer various prizes for such categories as most fish and greatest total weight, the underlying purpose is to remove as many lionfish as possible from the waters around Cayman as well as collect important data on the species.

Lionfish threaten the reefs and the local fish population through their voracious eating habits and proficiency at reproducing, with one female able to produce up to 30,000 eggs every four days.

Katie O’Neill, vice chair and co-founder of CULL, warned the lionfish population seems to be on the rise.

“The numbers appear to be trending upward again with more lionfish being sighted on reefs by individual snorkellers and divers, as well as an uptick in the most recent CULL tournament results over last year’s,” she told CNS. At the last cull in March, 461 lionfish were caught, more than double the 224 taken at the one before that.

Mark Orr, chief conservation officer at the Department of Environment (DoE) and one of the founders of CULL, noted the significance of events like this.

“Along with the daily culling done by dive companies and individual licence holders, the CULL tournaments are an important part of the combined efforts to control the invasive lionfish because they cause competitors to go to those areas of the reefs not often visited by dive companies, whether because they are too far from home docks or not on the most popular dive site list,” Orr said.

Orr explained that during the tournament cullers are looking for large numbers of fish, “so they are willing to go further to reach areas that have not been culled recently. Also, when a section of reef is hunted during a tournament, cullers seem to do a more thorough search.” This leads to higher numbers of lionfish caught, including juveniles that might otherwise be overlooked.

The DoE assists with the weigh station at the tournaments, Orr explained, so they can collect data on the lionfish that are caught, including the location of each day’s catch, size of the fish and stomach contents, which will help with both local and Caribbean-wide efforts to control the spread of this fish.

Orr is hoping to get a good turnout for the next event, which marks the 29th tournament organised by CULL. “It is a fun way to spend a weekend with friends, enjoying our beautiful marine environment while helping to protect our reefs from this invasive species,” he said.

“We also encourage those who want to learn more about lionfish to come out to the weigh station between 4pm and 6pm each day to try a sample of lionfish, watch our filleting demonstrations and have any questions they might have answered,” Orr added.

While there is no date set for a CULL tournament to follow the upcoming event, it will most likely be in late August or early September, O’Neill said.

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Category: Environment, Marine Environment

Comments (9)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Where can I sign up to do the lion fish culling course? What are the requirements? Is there an age restriction? I would like to make this a family affair as we are all certified divers in my family.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Can we regularly have the courses to cull lion fish? Or if Cayman is really serious about it, make it mandatory for every diver on a work permit to undergo the lion fish diving course – of course for a nominal fee – and then both locals and permit holders alike should be issued the spears.

    Problem solved. There are many who want to help. Help us help you.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Put a bounty on them like the iguanas and I guarantee they won’t be a problem anymore, plus poaching will decrease as every jack sparrow out there will be joining in on the cull.

  4. Anonymous says:

    we need spears. i have asked 3 times now and never been accepted to the coarse. despite a good diving record and no marine violations

  5. Anonymous says:

    FINALLY!!! Advance notice that I has reached me!! I kept missing them and wondered how they were being marketed. I always felt you had to be ‘in the know’ or know someone or be special enough to be in a club…
    Where can one find details to be involved in this???
    I’ve got all the gear but how does one get on a team?? Do you have to take your own boat out?
    They should make this easy to join.

  6. Anonymous says:

    zzzzzzzzzz… I’m still waiting on DoE to issue my culling certification card and spear 8 years after I wasted 3 hours of my life sitting through their course.

    • Anonymous says:

      That you bro? Has it really been 8 years since we did the course?!

      • Anonymous says:

        Yeah bro, it’s me! I’ve had to leave 1000’s of lionfish alive on our reefs because DoE can’t get their act together and get more spears for us bro’s.

  7. Anonymous says:

    DoE needs to give out spears to anyone who has done their course. I sat through it around 5 years ago and could have killed hundreds of lionfish since then, but I don’t have the tools to do so (and I’m not taking my chances with a butterfly net)