Cullers remove 464 lionfish from reefs

Participants and organisers gather at Tillie's Restaurant at the end of the 31st CULL tournament. - Photo: Katie O'Neill

Four teams took part in the latest lionfish culling tournament and caught more than 460 of the invasive species.

Many of the fish captured on Saturday and Sunday were cooked and served to participants, supporters and members of the public at Tillie’s Restaurant on Seven Mile Beach, after the lionfish were weighed and measured.

This was the 31st time the tournament, sponsored by Foster’s, has taken place. The first one was held in 2010.

A juvenile ruby cardinal fish is found inside one of the culled lionfish. Lionfish are detrimental to the health of coral reefs as they can ingest large quantities of other fish. – Photo: Katie O’Neill

This month’s cull had been postponed from November due to high winds and rough seas. Conditions over the weekend were also rough, organisers said, but the cullers took to the water nevertheless.

The tournament winner was the DiveTech team, whose members captured 315 of the total 464 fish caught.

The largest fish caught, by team iDive, was 310 millimetres (12.2 inches) long. The smallest, captured by Green Water, was 26mm (1.02 inches).

Sophie O’Hehir and Mark Orr from the Department of Environment weight and measure some of the culled lionfish.

Mark Orr, of the Department of Environment and Cayman United Lionfish League (CULL), told the Cayman Compass in an email, “The wide range of sizes and the variety of habitats, from shallow mangroves in the North Sound to 100+ feet on the West Wall, from which the lionfish were culled, shows that they are still a major threat to our marine life and reef eco system and that the CULL lionfish tournaments are an important part of controlling this invasive species.”

He added, “I would like to thank our dedicated cullers who braved the high winds during CULL #31 this past weekend and removed 464 invasive lionfish from Cayman’s reefs. The fish were brought in to the weigh station at Tillie’s Restaurant, on Saturday and Sunday, and measured and weighed with assistance from the DoE.

“The lionfish were over a wide range of sizes with the smallest lionfish being just 26mm and the longest 310mm. The chefs at Tillie’s then prepared the lionfish in several delicious ways, serving free samples to participants and members of the public who attended the weigh in.”