Kat and I used my new underwater scooters today to collect lionfish for the big derby. We WON!!! (the prize for the smallest one caught, and we were just a few measly millimeters shy of winning for the biggest one too). Now, as lovers of the ocean, we are reticent in our celebration of the killing of these beautiful but invasive fish; but kill them we must — all the small tropical fish are vanishing from our reefs—neither of us remember seeing any of the once-numerous and beautiful fairy basslets on our dives today. All of the lionfish presently found in the Caribbean and along the Atlantic coast are genetically related to three different adults inadvertently released from a Florida aquarium during Hurricane Andrew.
We heard this evening that recent findings show that lionfish lay 30,000 eggs every four days? COULD THIS BE SO? “They” also say that in their native waters of the Pacific, a disease of the eggs is what likely controls their population numbers; thus, they have to lay a LOT of eggs to get a few to hatch. We will never “win” against them here because they live to depths of 400-500 feet. Our goal is to just keep them from dominating every coral head, so hopefully we can preserve some of our other species of fish on the reef. Minor mishap to report — I got nicked by one of the buggers through the backside of my protective glove while catching it. The intense pain was bearable as I made my way back to shore a half-hour later. Soaking it in extremely hot water for 20 minutes fixed it almost entirely — it remains just a little swollen and sore.
While waiting for the weighing and measuring to determine the final results, the lionfish wranglers socialized with all the other teams—sharing stories, cocktails and delicious lionfish tacos—Saturday’s catch painstakingly cleaned & prepared by the terrific restaurant staff at Sunshine Suites. Great job guys and oh so tasty!!! A nod to all the event sponsors as well as the Cayman Islands Department of Environment. We hope this becomes a monthly event with more and more groups signing up to keep this pesky predator at bay.