The continuing saga of the lionfish of Cayman is one that has become central to divers. The beautiful, delicious but aggressively invasive fish is a real threat to the sensitive ecosystem of the Cayman Islands because of their position at the top of the food chain and their ability to reproduce explosively.
One thing that is becoming clear, too, is that the dive community has done great deeds in helping to keep numbers down, gaining a lot of interest from other destinations which are also menaced by the fish. Special licenses are available for those who can qualify to spear lionfish and take them from out of the reefs and place them into Foster’s Food Fair stocks.
Even Weekender has been out on a hunt (holding a bucket, rather than doing the spearing, natch) and one thing that people neglect to sometimes realise is that the dive operators are bringing some awesome deals for people wanting to join in on a hunt.
Competitive and fun
Hunter Sarah White tells us she enjoys taking part in the hunts because they often involve diving in between the regular dive sites.
“I also enjoy the competitive nature of the hunts; it always makes for a fun day. However, for me the most satisfying part of the day is when we de-spine and gut the fish, finding females who are ready to lay their eggs means we’ve prevented hundreds and possibly thousands more lionfish from hatching and gorging on our reefs.
“Whilst seeing the contents of the stomach is heartbreaking it is always my drive to continue our efforts,” she says.
Mick Booker agrees and adds that there’s a real social side to the experience which certainly does fully link in with the openness of the dive community.
“I enjoy meeting new people who are like-minded with a passion for our reefs and environment,” he tells us. “It is always interesting to compare the containment devices we use and as result we are always thinking of new ideas and designs. By providing sustainable fish to Fosters and local restaurants it is a great way to make those outside the world of diving aware of our endeavour to reduce and/or remove lionfish from our waters.”
The fish itself is increasingly available on menus in various restaurants in the Cayman Islands and is by nature ultra-fresh, never-frozen and versatile to cook with. So whether joining in the diving and culling or buy it to take home and cook, we can all do our part in assisting this ecologically-sensitive matter because the fish is the most sustainable in the waters.
Please contact the individual operators for further details. Lionfish culling dives are an ongoing process and more are scheduled. There is a calendar at the Dive365 website, which is regularly updated and of course Weekender will continue to keep our readers informed, too. Cause we’re nice like that. Restaurants which have lionfish on the menu include Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink, Cobalt Coast, Tukka and Guy Harvey’s Grill.