Cullers put a dent in lionfish invasion

CULL’s 29th tournament nets more than 500 invasive fish

Lionfish cullers and supporters attend CULL #29 tournament weigh-in on Sunday. - Photos: Katie O'Neill

More than 500 lionfish were removed from reefs around Grand Cayman in the latest Cayman United Lionfish League tournament to target the invasive predators.

Six teams took to the reefs to spear lionfish over two days before bringing their catch to the George Town Yacht Club to be weighed, cooked and eaten.

Mark Orr, one of the organisers of the CULL tournament series, said the number of lionfish caught this weekend was significantly higher than in tournaments last year.

He said, “It was actually quite a bit of fish for the number of teams. We are not sure exactly why, but people are starting to see more of them on the reefs again. Hopefully, we put a good dent in it this weekend.”

In the early days of the tournament series, cullers were regularly pulling in excess of 1,000 fish. But those numbers dipped as cull pressure started to take its toll. Last year, the figures at the tournaments were closer to 300.

The weekend’s tournament was the 29th one CULL has held.

Orr said consistent pressure from culling by divers was the only way to keep lionfish numbers down on the reefs.

“We know we will not get rid of them completely,” he said. “Until nature figures it out, we have to keep at it and keep the numbers down.”

He said the tournaments helped keep the pressure on and keep people interested in culling.

“I think everybody has that competitive spirit. We also have a lot of teams that support us tournament after tournament. Even if they don’t pick up the prizes, they still come time after time because they know it is for a good cause and it is a lot of fun.”

A tray of lionfish is weighed at the George Town Yacht Club.

CULL 29 overall results

  • Total lionfish culled: 512
  • Total weight: 140.5 kg
  • Total fishing line removed: 1.33kg

Team results

  • Smallest lionfish: Green Water 55m
  • Biggest lionfish: Warhammer 298mm
  • Most lionfish: Warhammer 50.5 per culler
  • Most weight: I-Dive 16.65kg per culler
  • Most fishing line removed: Green Water 825g.