Lionfish safari declared a success
The first Bermuda Fall Lionfish Safari has been hailed a huge success after 185 of the invasive fish species were caught over three days.
Five teams made up of a total of 18 freedivers and divers explored the reef to take part in the culling event last month.
Organisers are now looking to launch the 2017 Guardians of the Reef Derby Series, which is made up of a Winter Derby in January, a Spring Derby in March, and the Fall Derby in November.
The tri-series, together with the annual Groundswell's Tournament in the summer, means that Bermuda now has a lionfish specific culling event in each season.
“Altogether 185 lionfish in three days might not seem like a lot when you consider that thousands are caught in a typical Florida derby, this a huge and largely unexpected number for a similar event in Bermuda,” Corey Eddy, Guardian of the Reef's chief scientist, said.
“It seems that Bermuda hasn't experienced the explosive population growth common to invasive species, but instead is stuck in an extended lag period characterised by relatively slow growth; I worry that big bang moment is still coming though.”
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.
Dr Eddy added: “We typically see many more lionfish in shallow waters beginning in the fall and lasting through much of spring, but even these numbers were surprising.
“Fortunately, we've got a dedicated core group of lionfish hunters, both freedivers and scuba divers, who are very active through these months and will make a pretty big dent in the population.”
“One team caught 36 lionfish between Mid-Ocean and Frick's Point in one morning.
“The same group caught 12 on a small reef 15 feet deep off John Smith's in one dive, and one guy is catching 12 every weekend at Elbow.
“That's a pretty big increase compared to anything we've seen previously at this time of year and could signal a substantial increase in the population. It's hard to say with any confidence though without conducting controlled underwater surveys.”