Lionfish Tournament highlights the problematic fish invasion

Friday, May 31st, 2013

Wahoo’s Lounge held a Lionfish Tournament that coincided with Hol Chan’s Reef Week activities. The tournament saw 3 groups join in the fight to stop the rampant lionfish invasion. The lionfish were believed to have been introduced into the Atlantic Ocean in the 1980’s via the US aquarium trade. With a lifespan of over 15 years and growing up to approximately 20 inches, the lionfish is a voracious carnivore that consumes over 56 species of fish and many invertebrate species up to half its body size. The Lionfish possess venomous spines capable of deterring predators (and inflicting serious stings and reactions in humans). Capable of inhabiting all marine habitat types and depths, a single female lionfish can spawn over 2 million eggs a year, reproducing gelatinous masses of eggs that can disperse over a large body of water, every four days.

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Its ability to reproduce at alarming rates was certainly obvious when boat after boat came in with coolers full of lionfish. The team with the most Lionfish (Team Island Divers) brought in 97. They also had the largest fish at 16inches. Team Spear-fishers brought in the smallest fish (just under two inches) and they speared a large amount of small and mid-size lionfish, 78 to be exact. And joining in the Lionfish slaying Ecologic Divers, with 48 lionfish brought in, slain with the help of divers/snorkelers out on tour. Spectators were amazed at the sheer number of lionfish that were being stacked on the counting table, and by the end of the award ceremony, many were asking how to join in the fight. Organizer and owner of Wahoo’s Lounge Doug McLain asks dive centers to join in the fight to eliminate the lionfish in our waters, as their rampant reproduction is causing havoc on the reef. Dive shops are asked to explain to visitors the importance of slaying the fish, sharing the reasons why it is important to remove them from the waters whenever they are seen. It is hoped that another tournament will be organized to continue the eradication efforts, but in the meantime, have some fun and become a Lionfish Slayer!

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Lionfish, once filleted properly are edible and are considered a delicacy. Spectators had a chance to taste Chef Mar’s winning Piña Colada Lionfish, ceviche and even curry lionfish at the tournament. Once cooked, they are delicious, and you are helping in the efforts to reduce their numbers.
McLain would like to thank the sponsors of the event: O Restaurant at Las Terrazas, Tropic Air, The Fisheries Department/Hol Chan, Robert ‘Bob’ Foster, Rojo Lounge, Pirate’s Treasure, Wahoo’s Lounge and Motor Solutions Ltd. Belmopan. These sponsors helped provide the tournament with prizes that included cash, round trip tickets, t-shirts and even a dive suit!

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Congratulations to the winners and to everyone else: join the fun next time!

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