Lionfish cullers braved windy conditions over the weekend to pull in a near-record haul, including the smallest lionfish ever caught in Cayman’s waters.
In the first tournament of the year for the Cayman United Lionfish League, sponsored by Foster’s Food Fair, 13 teams took to the waters in an effort to rid Cayman’s reefs of the invasive species.
A team from Divetech pulled in the most fish, 368, while freediving team Green Water took the most fish per culler, with the three-man team catching 276 fish in total.
Aaron Hunt, with the Lobster Pot team, set a new record for the smallest fish, catching a 19mm (0.7 inches) lionfish.
Tournament organizers encourage cullers to catch smaller fish because of the extent of damage they could do if left on the reef.
“If you wait until they get big, then they could have eaten somewhere between 20,000 and 50,000 fish to get to that size,” said Mark Orr, one of the tournament organizers.
Mr. Orr said his team, Green Water, specifically targeted smaller fish for that reason.
The team pulled in 152 fish on day one of the tournament with a net weight of less than 2kg. By contrast, other teams, pulled in 20 fish with a net weight of more than 8 kg.
Mr. Orr believes Mr. Hunt’s 19mm catch, which shaved 3mm off the previous record, will be hard to beat.
He said the overall haul of 1,339 lionfish culled over the weekend was the second highest since the tournament series began.
“We had rough seas and cold weather which was a challenge for the teams, so it was an amazing result.
The flip-side of the high numbers of fish culled is that it demonstrates that after years of culling, lionfish are still seen on Cayman’s reefs in large numbers.
Mr. Orr believes pressure from cullers is helping to contain the population of the invasive species. He said tournaments are important because they encourage cullers to look outside the usual dive sites.
1st – Lobster Pot (new tournament record) 19 mm
2nd – Divetech 31 mm
3rd – Green Water 33 mm
1st – Neptune Divers 302 mm
2nd – (TIED) Neptune Divers 298 mm
2nd – (TIED) Ocean Frontiers 298 mm
1st – Divetech 22.5 kg/culler
2nd – Lobster Pot 15.8 kg/culler
3rd – Ambassador Divers 14 kg/culler
1st – Green Water 92/culler
2nd – Divetech 73.6/culler
3rd – Lobster Pot 55/culler
Total Lionfish culled off reef: 1,339
Total Weight: 321.25 kg or 708.24 lbs