Cullers nab 861 lionfish in weekend tournament

Cullers gather outside Silverside Restaurant at the Eden Rock Dive Centre site in George Town on Sunday after a hard two days of culling lionfish. - Photo: Katie O'Neill

Lionfish cullers took 861 of the invasive fish off local reefs over the weekend.

The Cayman United Lionfish League (CULL) tournament was the first to be held since lockdown restrictions were lifted. It was aptly named ‘Stop the Spread’.

Weigh-ins were held at the end of each day of culling, on Saturday and Sunday, outside the Eden Rock Dive Centre in George Town.

The six teams of cullers caught a total of 251.3 pounds of lionfish in the two-day event.

Chefs at the Silversides Restaurant and Rum Bar cooked up some of the fish and offered free lionfish dishes to attendees. Prize money was donated by Foster’s.

Mark Orr, of CULL Cayman, told the Cayman Compass on Monday that with the forced hiatus on lionfish hunting during the COVID-19 lockdown, lionfish had become even more prevalent on the local reefs.

“With the COVID lockdown and restrictions on events, causing a nine-month gap between tournaments and a reduction in regular culling by divers, we have seen a huge jump in lionfish numbers around the Cayman Islands,” Orr said.

“This tournament’s totals were almost double the totals from the last few tournaments. It shows how important culling efforts are in controlling lionfish numbers.”

Winning teams

The team that caught the most lionfish was iDive, with a total of 95 fish. In second place was Green Water with 68, followed by Epic Divers with 39.

The prize for most weight of lionfish also went to iDive, which caught 55.3 pounds. Epic Divers was second in this category with 20.9 pounds, and Lion My Hawaiian was third with 14.1 pounds.

The iDive team also came first, and second, in the biggest lionfish category, catching fish measuring 12.2 inches and 12.1 inches, respectively. Third place went to Epic Divers with 12.08 inches.

Prizes were also given to those who caught the smallest lionfish. Las Tortugas took first prize in this category, with a teeny lionfish measuring just 0.98 inches. Second and third place went to Green Water, with two fish measuring 2.2 inches each.

Organisers said the fish caught by Las Tortugas is not the smallest ever for a CULL tournament; the record is one measuring 0.74 inches taken during a previous event.

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