Divers cull 224 lionfish in 2-day tournament

Mark Orr of Cayman United Lionfish League weighs a 293mm lionfish, the biggest fish caught in the tournament. - Photo: Taneos Ramsay

Lionfish cullers donned fins and masks and grabbed their spears over the weekend for the latest lionfish tournament. The cullers removed a total of 224 lionfish from Cayman waters over the two-day challenge.

Organized by the Cayman United Lionfish League, known simply as CULL, the 27th tournament landed some whoppers.

The biggest lionfish caught was 293mm (11.5 inches), speared by team Reef Lions. The second and third biggest fish (278mm and 273mm) were both caught by team iDive.

The smallest lionfish, at 56mm (2.2 inches), was also caught by iDive.

The prize for the greatest number of lionfish caught per culler was won by team Green Water, whose team members caught an average of 43.5 lionfish each. Team iDive had an average of 34 fish per culler, and Reef Lions caught 12.5 per culler.

The prize for most weight per culler went to iDive, with 7.25kg (16 pounds); Green Water was runner-up with 3.67kg, and Reef Lions was in third place with 3.6 kg. The total weight of all lionfish caught during the tournament was 37.6kg (82.8 pounds).

The fish were then served up at Silversides at Eden Rock in George Town, where the official weigh-in was held on Saturday and Sunday.

Organizers say the culls are necessary because the lionfish, which are native to the Indo-Pacific, are an invasive species that were first spotted in local waters in 2008.

Since then, their numbers have grown rapidly. A female lionfish can produce up to 30,000 eggs every four days, and can reproduce year round.

With no natural predators, the only way to remove the species from the water is through culling.