The great lionfish hunt

New this year to Pirates Week is a
competition to hunt the beautiful – but rapacious – Red Lion Fish.

This intruder to Cayman waters may
be easy on the eyes, but it is also a fish with no natural predators and this,
allied with an insatiable appetite and very speedy reproduction, means the
invader is a threat to the delicate ecosystems under the sea.

Every day during Pirates Week a
lion fish hunt sponsored by Cayman Airways will take place, the venue changing
to coincide with each Heritage Day, explained Randy Christman of Reef

“We want to teach people how to run
the grids; tourists and locals can come out to the dive boats where we’ll have
all the equipment ready to go. We want to create awareness in the community as
well as with tourists about this problem.

“It’s what heritage days are all
about; getting people from each district to come to different districts. People
can have a dive in the morning, head into the Heritage Day for a few hours,
have lunch and enjoy it, then go for another dive,” added the dive master.

Those entering the contest will be
allocated a specific grid section of the sea in which to seek and identity the
fish, which will then be trapped by trained individuals. The hunt is not just
for the experienced diver; these fish are also found in the shallows, said Mr
Christman, who is helping to coordinate the event along with the best of
Cayman’s dive operations. Indeed, children from the Sunrise community are
helping identify lion fish in the shallows, making it a true
team effort.


Stepping up

The lionfish is a threat not to be
underestimated, he continued.

“You’ve heard about the oil spill
in the US but this is something that could destroy many, many times more of the
ocean than that. The red lion fish is moving through the Caribbean eating
everything in its path, removing all the native species that the coral reefs
depend upon so the teeny little fish that most divers never even see will be

“The algae that these little guys
take care of and harvest will then grow out of control and it becomes an
ecological disaster. We need to act, and we need to act fairly soon; we need to
stand, be proud and take on this creature in a very systematic fashion and we
all need to get behind it. The whole island has to step up to the plate real
soon or we’re going to lose the coral reefs,” he warned.

The person who catches the biggest
fish each day wins $100. At the end of the week, whoever catches the most fish
will win $1,000 – happily, red lion fish are delicious and a mega barbecue is
scheduled at the end of the day. Conservation never tasted so good.


For more information contact [email protected]


Red lionfish – beautiful but dangerous.
Photo: File