Cull competitors bring in 591 lionfish

Cullers, cookers and eaters of lionfish gather at The Lobster Pot in downtown George Town Sunday following the 23rd Cayman United Lionfish League culling tournament.

Culling lionfish is sometimes compared to pulling weeds. As soon as you clear one patch, new specimens spring up elsewhere.

“We don’t ever expect to eradicate them completely,” said Mark Orr after the 23rd Cayman United Lionfish League culling competition over the weekend.

“All we can do is keep the numbers down. Man is the only consistent predator for them and we have to keep up the pressure,” Mr. Orr said.

The tournament, postponed on a couple of occasions, saw a relatively high yield from a much smaller number of teams than usually turn out for the quarterly tournaments.

Just five teams participated, culling 591 fish between them. Over various tournaments, cull numbers have fluctuated between 500 and 1,500, though typically there are more than a dozen teams competing. In the last tournament in May, 12 teams collectively culled 503 fish.

“We didn’t have many teams this time, but those that did participate culled a lot of fish,” said Mr. Orr, chief conservation officer for the Department of Environment and one of the organizers of the event.

Divetech culled the most fish in this weekend’s competition, 299. Ambassador Divers won the award for most fish per culler, the three-man team taking 186 fish. Ambassador Divers also won the biggest lionfish, smallest lionfish and most weight per culler.

Culling teammates Jason Washington, left, and Zach Larrabee with the largest lionfish caught in the tournament. – PHOTOS: KATIE O’NEILL

Mr. Orr said the lower overall number and anecdotal evidence from the cullers suggests numbers of the invasive species were generally lower than a few years ago. But he cautioned that the number could also be due to the much lower number of cullers. He said one team had filled an ice chest full of fish at a single site off Jackson Point.

Regular tournaments are important, he said, because they incentivize cullers to look beyond the usual dive sites.

The next tournament is planned for mid-November to coincide with Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation’s Ocean Conservation Month.

Tournament Winners

Smallest Lionfish

  1. Ambassador Divers, 83 mm
  2. Divetech, 87 mm
  3. Tie – Neptune Divers & Ambassador Divers, 90 mm

Biggest Lionfish

  1. Ambassador Divers, 310 mm
  2. Ambassador Divers, 308 mm
  3. Divetech 294 mm

Most Weight (per culler)

  1. Ambassador Divers, 18.62 lbs
  2. Divetech, 18.34 lbs.
  3. Neptune Divers, 10.65 lbs.

Most Lionfish (per culler)

  1. Ambassador Divers, 62
  2. Divetech, 59.8
  3. Neptune Divers, 40
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