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CNN highlights lionfish battle

Lionfish was on the menu this weekend, with Mile's Market selling out of the fish shortly after putting it for sale for the first time.

John Nicol of the store's meat department said the store received ten small lionfish on Friday, which were sold out by yesterday afternoon.

“There were a few people that were interested. After two days it was gone,” Mr Nicol said. “It was the first time we have carried it. We've had people asking about it for a while but we just haven't been able to get it from the commercial fishermen.

“Hopefully we will start seeing it come in more frequently. It's a nice fish. I did try a piece, and I was quite impressed with it. It'll be interesting when the feedback comes in next week from the customers that tried.”

He also noted the environmental benefits of eating the invasive species, which have no natural predators in Bermuda's waters and are not recognised as a threat by local fish.

Lionfish are native to the Pacific Ocean, but in 1992 a handful were released into the Atlantic near Florida. Since then, the species has spread throughout the Caribbean and the US East Coast. They were first spotted in Bermuda's waters in 2000, sparking a culling effort.

Efforts have been made to encourage the targeting of the fish, including allowing lionfish caught in lobster pots to be sold and creating a licence to allow scuba divers and snorkellers to spear lionfish anywhere in Bermuda's waters.

Ecologist James Morris with the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science said that while this may not be the worst epidemic the Atlantic Ocean has faced, it does have the makings of a disaster.

Bermuda's battle with the species was recently highlighted by US news network CNN.

CNN special contributor Katie Linendoll visited the Island this summer, joining Graham Maddocks of the Ocean Support Foundation on a lionfish hunt 100ft below the water's surface.

“Despite our weapons, I was shocked to see the lionfish just sit there,” she said. “It seemed to be baiting us, ‘Come on, hit me'. With 18 venomous spines and no predators, it does have a reason to be fearless.”

During a 200ft dive, Mr Maddocks and his team speared a total of 16 lionfish in a 25-minute period. Along with killing off the fish, she notes that the team brings a range of recording devices on their hunts to collect valuable information about the predator's behaviour in Bermuda.

“The footage is critical because it allows researchers deep insights into the behaviour of the lionfish and contributes to the database of information they're building,” Ms Linendoll wrote.

“The team also collects GPS coordinates and fish counts, notes the number of species observed, surveys the stomach contents of each fish captured and more. They can determine if culling an area or hot spot makes a difference 30 days later.”

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Published October 21, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated October 20, 2013 at 10:43 pm)

CNN highlights lionfish battle

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