Lion fish battle continues

 

The fight against invasive lion fish continues in the Cayman Islands. 

Restaurants continue to put the tasty fish on their menus with the help of diver trained catch the fish and chefs educated on how to safely clean the fish for consumption. 

In an effort to help clear Cayman’s water of this dangerous fish, the Marine Conservation Board agreed to allow Cayman’s dive operators to teach the PADI Lion Fish Tracker Distinctive Speciality course. 

With this armour, Cayman Island Dive operators are now offering a special to help the Cayman Islands manage the invasion of the red lion fish. Many of them are providing reduced course fees to visitors and residents this fall. Guests can receive the PADI c-card plus the local lion fish culling license. 

“With reduced course fees for the lion fish culling course for both residents and visitors, we hope will encourage more manpower to help us fight this invasion,” said Steve Broadbelt of Ocean Frontiers. “We cannot totally eradicate the lion fish, but learning lessons from the Bahamas for example, if we do not keep this fish in check, our indigenous marine life will be gone. This results in a reduction of fish stock, marine life and allows corals to become covered in algae, so the health of the coral reefs is at stake and we need all hands on deck.” 

Reduced price courses are available from Divetech, Ocean Frontiers, Deep Blue Divers, Cayman Turtle Divers, Divers Down and Dive N Stuff or check with your local dive shop to inquire about the course. 

After your course, there are boats running from various operators every week to cull lion fish, along with the tournaments run by Ambassador Divers. 

“Snorkellers can help too as many lion fish can be found in shallow waters just off shore and in the canals in the North Sound. This is prime breeding ground for lobsters, groupers, snappers and more, so removing lion fish from the North Sound can play a huge role in helping to cull the invasion” stated Nancy Easterbrook of 

Divetech. “They are tasty – a light white fish that needs a little special handling while filleting to remove the venomous spines, but well worth it. Many restaurants are now serving lion fish on a special or full time menu, so ask for lion fish when you are next out to dinner, or try it at home. Not only will this help create a market for the lion fish, but it will have the positive side effect of reducing the demand for the ‘traditional’ eating fish like conch, grouper and snapper, allowing fish stocks to grow and be sustainable.” 

“We’d like to express our thanks to all of the sponsors that continue to help us in the effort to cull the lion fish,” said Rod McDowall of Red Sail Sports. It’s encouraging to see non-traditional dive industry companies and individuals come forward that are helping to make this a truly holistic effort that we hope to win, as it’s a challenge that’s day in and day out, and affects every one of us.” 

Lionfish are voracious predators that eat native fish and crustaceans in large quantities, including both ecologically and economically important species like grunts, snapper, Nassau Grouper, and cleaner shrimp. That are not known to have any native predators. 

The fish have venomous dorsal, ventral and anal spines, which deter predators and can cause painful wounds to humans and they are capable of reproducing every four days. 

Lion fish are relatively resistant to parasites, giving them another advantage over native species and they are able to outgrow native species with whom they compete for food and space. 

Non-native marine fishes can pose a major threat to marine fisheries, habitats, and eco-system function. Increased reports of non-native species and the successful invasion of lion fish in Atlantic waters have proven the need for early warning and rapid response to confirmed sightings.  

They have been documented along the entire US East Coast from Florida through Massachusetts, east to Bermuda and south throughout the Caribbean. The expansion has been extremely rapid and exponential in scope. 

lionfish

Lionfish pose a serious threat to the marine ecosystem, but they also taste good. – Photo: File
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