THE LIONFISH SLAYERS
There are many lionfish swimming in our Belizean waters, perhaps more than we can possibly imagine. The lionfish are native to the Indo-Pacific Region. They were first reported in Florida in 1991, Bahamas in 2004 and in Belize in 2008. This specie has been found in all marine habitats including lobster traps, fish traps, piers, lagoons, mangroves, sea grass beds, and coral reefs. For us in Belize this little creature poses a great threat to our fishery, especially since it has aggressive tendencies and has a large appetite for juvenile fishes. Large lion fish have been found with more than 20 fish in their stomach. Up until recently not much has been known about the lionfish predators but it is recognized that large eels, frogfish and other scorpion fish are all predators of the lionfish including the Nassau Groupers.
Due to the overwhelming population of the lionfish in Belize, the Southern Environmental Association (SEA) in collaboration with the, Placencia Tour Guide Association (PTGA) held the first ever lionfish tournament and cook-off competition in Placencia Village on March 5th, 2011.
There were four categories for prizes and the first being for the most lionfish caught, the second for the lionfish with the most weight, the third for the biggest lionfish and the fourth for the smallest lionfish.
The lionfish tournament kicked off at 6:30 Saturday morning where five tour operators embarked to Laughing Bird Caye National Park and Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes Marine Reserve to get the catch of the day. The tour operators that competed in the tournament were Splash Dive Shop, Paradise Resort, Roberts’ Grove, Seahorse Dive Shop, and Arlin Muschamp.
At the beginning it seemed difficult for most tour operators to catch the amount of fish desired, but soon after lionfish kept pouring in their ice boxes. Long hours of catch brought the participants back to Placencia to determine prizes. The catch was measured and weighed by ECOMAR personnel as well as SEA’s monitoring team. After all the hard work of sorting and measuring there were some winners. The first prize for the most lionfish caught went to Sea horse Dive Shop with a total number of 133. Second prize for the lionfish with the most weight went to Paradise Resort with 23.5 ounces. Third prize for the biggest lionfish caught went to Seahorse Dive Shop with a size of 39 cm. Finally the fourth prize went to Paradise Resort for the smallest lionfish caught with a size of 8 cm. The winners received numerous gift certificates as well as cash prizes for a job well done. There were also numerous booths set up to disseminate information on this invasive specie. Organizations such as ECOMAR have also embarked on a lion fish campaign to help eradicate the specie. They were also present at the tournament giving out information and demonstrating how to clean the lionfish.
Immediately after the winners were determined, the cook-off competition began. There were only 3 chefs that entered the competition namely Adrian Vernon, Henry Anderson and Paradise Resort. Mr. Henry Anderson won for the most tasteful meal for his grilled lionfish. Paradise Resort won the prize for the best meal presentation for his sauté fish with honey and ginger, Adrian Vernon won for local dish with his parmesan fish.
The Southern Environmental Association would like to congratulate all winners and thank the general public for their continuous support and generosity in donating some of the prizes. SEA would also like to thank the following businesses: Cozy Corner, Ally’s Guest house, Jane Eiley, Barefoot Bar, Paradise Hotel, Art & Soul Gallery, Placencia Mooring Masters, Rum Fish, Secret Garden & Day Spaa, Nyhus, Mira Mar (Lisa Villanueva), Wendy’s Restaurant, Daisy’s Restaurant, MnM Service Station, Wallen’s Hardware, Typsy Tuna Bar & Restaurant, Sunova Gift Shop, Tuttifruti Ice-cream Parlor, Ocean Pro, Avadon Divers, Spindrift Hotel, Hol Chan Shark Ray Alley, Placencia Cooperative, Coral Reef Alliance, ECOMAR and SEA’s staff.
Once again thank you for supporting this worthy cause.