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Lionfish hunt nets big haul

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From left, Winter Lionfish Derby organiser Dr Corey Eddy with James Adderly who caught the biggest lionfish of the tournament. (Photo by Selange Gitschner)

While there were five fewer hunters taking part in this year’s Winter Lionfish Derby than last year, 54 more lionfish were caught.

The tournament, which aims to reduce the numbers of the invasive species in Bermuda’s waters, saw a total of 209 fish caught over the course of about ten days by 25 participants.

Chris Cabral, Sean Correia and Alex Davidson caught the most number of fish at 80.

Organiser Corey Eddy, who published a PhD thesis on lionfish in Bermuda last summer, said that the winter derby served two purposes.

Dr Eddy told The Royal Gazette: “First of all, lionfish are very abundant in shallow water between November and May, making them easily accessible close to shore. With that in mind, the derby is meant to encourage lionfish hunters to get in the water, despite the cold temperatures, and catch lionfish. I think we’ve shown that a consistent effort during these months can make a substantial impact in terms of the number of lionfish removed. “It’s quick, it’s easy, and its cheap; you don’t even need a boat, fuel, or other added expenses.

“Second of all, and very importantly, the derby is meant as a thank you to this dedicated group of hunters for all that they do in fighting the lionfish and protecting the reefs.”

Dr Eddy, of the Bermuda Lionfish Culling Programme, said he was grateful for the support he had received from the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute which has become BLPC’s parent organisation. He also expressed gratitude for the financial support from the Bermuda Lionfish Task Force; Groundswell for covering the catering cost; Chris Cabral for donating 20lbs of fillet; Harbourfront for the lionfish prize-giving menu; support from Guardians of the Reef (formerly Bermuda Ocean Explorers); as well as Blue Water Divers; Dive Bermuda; Blue Hole Water Sports; Makin Waves; La Garza jewellers; and Alexandra Mosher jewellers for donating additional prizes; and Alex Davidson who provided a hand-carved cedar spoon, “perfect for making lionfish chowder”.

Dr Eddy’s thesis found that lionfish appear to be more abundant in Bermuda’s shallow waters during the winter months, challenging the belief that the Indo-Pacific invaders are a deep-sea problem only, and fish found in the shallow waters were found to be marginally larger than fish found in deep waters.

Some of the catch from the 2017 Winter Lionfish Derby.
First place in the Winter Lionfish Derby freediving category Alex Davidson, Chris Cabral, (tournament organiser Corey Eddy pictured third right) and Sean Correia.