The First San Pedro Lionfish Tournament Is a Hit
|The first entry of the tournament was brought in
by Felicito of Tuff e Nuff
Eat Them to Beat Them!
Lionfish have won many admirers with their striking appearance, but taken out of their native habitat, they have become a menace. Native to the Indo-Pacific, lionfish lack natural population controls in the Caribbean; when they were accidentally introduced to the region in the early 1990s, these voracious predators and prolific breeders spread with remarkable speed, wreaking havoc on the area's coral reefs by devouring native reef fish. Now our hope is to control the lionfish population by devouring them.
To that end, CORAL helped to organize the first-ever lionfish tournament in San Pedro, Belize, which served as the perfect venue for spurring action against this dangerous invasive species. Not only did tournament contestants remove hundreds of lionfish from the nearby reefs, but the wider public had the chance to learn about the lionfish threat and taste a solution—luckily, lionfish make a delicious meal!
Now that lionfish populations are established on many Caribbean coral reefs, complete eradication is likely impossible. However, by controlling their numbers through community-led efforts, we can give native fauna a fighting chance. You can learn more about lionfish and our efforts at mitigation in Belize in our May 2010 newsletter.
The largest lionfish (at 38cm) was submitted
The San Pedro Lionfish Tournament was a true collaborative effort, supported by environmental organizations, tour operators, government agencies, fishermen, and local businesses and associations. CORAL was one of the lead organizers of the January 19 event, along with local partners including the Hol Chan Marine Reserve and the San Pedro Tour Guide Association.
Fishermen, tour guides, divers, and the public were invited to participate, and the tournament attracted seven teams representing local businesses and stakeholders. The night before the tournament, ECOMAR and other partners held a Lionfish Outreach Training workshop to raise awareness about the impacts of the invasive lionfish population and discuss the rules and regulations for the tournament.
On the day of the event, teams set out early to bring in the biggest possible haul. Between 3:00 and 5:00 in the afternoon, contestants brought their catch to Wahoo's Lounge at the Spindrift Hotel to be counted, weighed, and measured. Fishing equipment was also checked for approval.
|Once the counting and measuring were completed, the lionfish were ready to be turned into dinner. Everette Anderson, a dive instructor at Belize Diving Adventures, led well-attended demonstrations throughout the afternoon to show people how to safely remove the animal's poisonous spines. After the spines have been removed, lionfish are safe to handle and eat.|
Free samples of grilled and barbequed lionfish were enjoyed by locals and tourists alike, and Wahoo's even invented a special drink for the night called "The Lionfish Eradicator."
CORAL's Valentine Rosado led the awards ceremony, where prizes were given for most, largest, and smallest lionfish caught.
The event got rave reviews from both locals and tourists, and Wahoo's Lounge has agreed to coordinate and cosponsor ongoing monthly tournaments!
For more photos, information, and videos from the event, see the article in Ambergris Today.