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Cull invasive lionfish at upcoming safari

The first Annual Fall Bermuda Safari takes place this month.

Lionfish cullers are invited to join the battle to control the invasive species in Bermuda’s waters with the introduction of the First Bermuda Fall Lionfish Safari.

The three-day culling event, from Friday to Monday, builds on other lionfish tournaments taking place in the summer and winter months.

Weldon Wade, who formed Bermuda Ocean Explorers in 2011, has been active in hosting events to raise awareness of the lionfish invasion as well as helping to tackle the problem of marine debris. In September, he formed a new organisation called Guardians of the Reef with efforts being expanded globally.

Along with the organisational change was the appointment of Corey Eddy as the group’s chief scientist. The whole transition is still in motion and there are more exciting announcements on the horizon, said Mr Wade.

Lionfish have been in Bermuda’s waters since about 2000 and with no natural predators here they have been targeting native and endemic species as part of their diet.

Mr Wade added: “We want to offer the entire community the opportunity to participate in an organised lionfish culling event at least four times a year in each of the seasons.

“For now, and over the past few years, lionfish have adopted the pattern of coming into the shallows during the cooler months and fleeing into deeper water as the ocean temperature rises.

“Having these events often not only helps with community engagement but it allows scientists to capture important data. The popular Groundswell Lionfish Tournament captures that time of year in a single day, the Winter Derby opens up the entire month of January for culling and collection, this Fall Safari offers a three-day window and an upcoming Spring Safari will do the same.”

Reef, the Reef Environmental Education Foundation based in Florida, established a lionfish culling event framework and in exchange for following their guidelines, organisers get access to valuable resources. The autumn event has been granted permission from Reef.org to make it a Reef Sanctioned Derby.

Mr Wade said: “If your team wants a shot at catching the most lionfish and the weather permits, you may want to dive as much as possible, even split up or dive in mixed teams of freedivers and divers on scuba.

“But teams can dive once or as many times as possible, by boat or from shore. It just takes one dive to capture the largest or the smallest.”

To spear a lionfish in Bermuda, divers must have a permit which is available from the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo. They don’t need a permit to support a dive team or be part of a dive team as a spotter or to carry equipment. Each team needs a team captain and every captain must attend a captain’s meeting for a briefing and to fill out required paperwork.

There is a total of $1,500 in cash prizes to the team with the most lionfish caught, the largest lionfish and the smallest.

Registration costs $100 per team and teams should be a minimum of two and a maximum of four people. The safari takes place all day Friday, Saturday and Sunday until 3pm.

Registration is live on Ptix.bm at: https://www.ptix.bm/Event/2350/1st-Annual-Bermuda-Fall-Lionfi/

There are 22 individual rules and guidelines that can be viewed at the same site.

For more information contact Weldon Wade at weldon.wade@gmail.com or call 338-8058.