4th Annual Caye Caulker Lionfish Derby Tournament to be held on March 23rd

Sunday, March 10th, 2019

For the fourth consecutive year, Caye Caulker’s Lionfish Derby Tournament will take place at Barrier Reef Sports Bar and Grill. This year’s tournament is on Saturday, March 23rd and various teams will be competing in four different categories, including ‘Most Lionfish’ via scuba diving or free diving, plus ‘Largest Lionfish’ and ‘Smallest Lionfish.’
The tournament begins at 7AM from Barrier Reef Sports Bar and Grill in Caye Caulker, with boats heading out to sea fully equipped to catch as many lionfish as they can, hoping to claim one of the fabulous tournament prizes. The teams spend approximately eight hours at sea and are all expected to be back to the weighing and count station by 3PM. This is the highlight of the tournament, and a large crowd of spectators gather at the scale to view the amount of fish caught.
While the participants are at sea, spectators get the chance to participate in raffles, purchase beautiful lionfish jewelry and even see how conservationists collect scientific data from the various specimens caught. This year’s proceeds from the raffle will benefit Caye Caulker Humane Society and Frontier Belize Operations in Caye Caulker. After the tournament, spectators will also get the chance to sample different delicious lionfish dishes prepared in ceviche, grilled or fried.
Organizer of the event, Lynne Couch-Harris invites teams to participate in the tournament to continue to raise awareness and reduce the number of lionfish in the sea. “The goal of the tournament is to create supply and demand between the fishermen, restaurants and the consumers. We hope as well as to bring awareness to the entire community about the invasive nature of the species and to educate them through this event in ways to handle, fillet and prepare lionfish. This year we are hoping to eliminate more of the invasive species and educate more people about the handling and preparation to ease fear of consuming lionfish in our society,” said Couch-Harris.
The lionfish is an invasive species that poses a major threat to marine life. Left uncontrolled, invasive Lionfish populations disrupt marine food webs, negatively impact the health of coral reefs and fisheries productivity and thereby undermine the resilience of coral reefs and reef-associated systems to global change.
Native to the Indo-Pacific, the first lionfish sighted off the coast of Florida, USA was in 1985. It is suspected that this fish was released by its owner from its aquarium. It wasn’t only one, and for about 20 years people saw them occasionally off the coast of Florida. These lionfish started to breed, releasing eggs into the water which then moved in the ocean currents. In 2004 the first lionfish was seen outside of the USA, in the nearby Bahamas. From there, the population quickly spread across the entire wider Caribbean region, including the Gulf of Mexico. Lionfish are now found as far north as New York, USA and as far south as Brazil. Here in Belize, lionfish were first recorded in 2008, and have become well established across the country’s entire marine environment.
Teams interested in participating are reminded that the deadline for registration is on Thursday, March 21st by noon at Barrier Reef Sports Bar and Grill in Caye Caulker. A captain’s meeting will be held the same day at 6PM at the Caye Caulker Community Center.

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