Winter lionfish hunt under way

  • The battle is on: a lionfish

    The battle is on: a lionfish

Conservationists hope lionfish will be back on the menu this winter as the fifth annual Winter Lionfish Derby picks up steam.

As of Monday afternoon more than 180 lionfish had already been caught as part of this year’s derby.

A spokesman said: “It seems Bermuda’s lionfish typically move closer to shore through the winter, into shallower water, which makes them easy targets.

“Considering the overall threat that invasive lionfish represent, we think an annual winter derby provides a unique opportunity to catch big numbers of lionfish in an easy and fun way, ultimately making a pretty big dent in their population.”

Lionfish, which are native to the Pacific and Indian oceans, were introduced to the Atlantic in the 1990s. The fast-breeding species spread rapidly through the Caribbean and reached Bermudian waters by 2000.

Lionfish have no natural predators in the Atlantic and are not recognised as a threat by local fish, which allows them to easily hunt local reef fish.

Lionfish are edible, and research by the Reef Environmental Education Foundation found that derbies can reduce the number of lionfish in an area by up to 52 per cent.

This year’s winter derby began on January 1 and will continue until the end of the month, with a wrap-up party and award ceremony on February 2.

Those taking part in the derby need to have an up-to-date lionfish culling permit and pay a $25 entrance fee, which includes a ticket to the wrap-up event.

The spokesman said: “As in years past, there will be cash prizes in both freediver and scuba diver categories.

“We also hope to have additional door prizes for lionfish hunters who did not bring in big numbers but still deserve a prize for their efforts, so even if you only spear one single lionfish you still might win something.

“Every lionfish hunter who provides us with proof of their catch will receive an official Winter Lionfish Derby hooded sweatshirt. For any hunters who tried, but came home empty-handed, there will be a limited number of sweatshirts available for purchase.”

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Published Jan 8, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated Jan 8, 2019 at 8:05 am)

Winter lionfish hunt under way

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