Feeling the Sting with Lionfish

Lionfish started appearing on Cayman’s Reefs around 2009 and have since grown into a huge problem for Cayman’s reef life. So “How did they get here? How did they make it to an island in the middle of the Caribbean and where did they come from?”

While no one knows exactly how these voracious eaters arrived in the Atlantic (they are indigenous to the Red Sea for example where they have natural predators), the most common thoughts are:

  1. Accidental or intentional release of aquarium fish into the marine environment.
  2. Transport of the species in the ballast water of ships.
  3. The only confirmed release was during Hurricane Andrew in 1992 when 6 lionfish were liberated from an aquarium into Biscayne Bay.

Sadly Lionfish have now been documented along the entire US East Coast from Florida to as far north as Massachusetts, east to Bermuda and south throughout the Bahamas and in other Caribbean nations such as Turks and Caicos, Jamaica and Cuba in depths ranging from 2 to 500 feet!  Here’s what we know about Lionfish:

  1. They are voracious predators that will eat juvenile fish and crustaceans (shrimps, lobsters, etc.) in large quantities.
  2. Here in the Cayman Islands they have no natural predators but the Nassau Groupers in Little Cayman, for example, are fast getting used to being fed Lionfish by divers who hunt Lionfish weekly. 
  3. Lionfish have venomous spines which deter predators and can cause extremely painful wounds in humans.
  4. Lionfish are capable of reproducing monthly from about one year old  and can produce an astounding 30,000 eggs each month!
  5. Lionfish grow incredibly fast, in fact they outgrow most native species with whom they compete for food and space.

Sadly Lionfish are prolific on Cayman’s Reefs and have made a meal of way too many of our reef fish. Dive Operators throughout the Cayman Islands have made weekly and monthly efforts by organizing successful Lionfish hunts. In turn local restaurants have been proactive in creating truly delicious meals out of Lionfish. 

Sail Cayman’s very own Orneil Galbraith has been an avid Lionfish hunter and have twice this year won the prize for most fish caught or biggest fish caught. We are proud of Orneil’s efforts and encourage everyone to take part in the fight against this invasive species, even if you don’t hunt, you can still spot the fish and let the hunters do the catching. Every fish caught is one less on our reefs and only with concerted efforts will the Cayman Islands be able to save their reefs and reef fish from Lionfish.

So Sail Cayman says; “Go Orneil GO!”

Follow Sail Cayman on Facebook for updates on Orneil’s lionfish catching adventures…

LionFish_Diagram

What you need to know about Lionfish anatomy

Orneil and lionfish

Removing poisonous spines

Lionfish weigh in

Catch of the day

Lionfish winners

Orneil’s winning team

Lionfish Sandwich

Delicious and freshly caught

Lionfish ceviche

Lionfish Ceviche

 

 

 

 

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