With the invasive lionfish now in waters across Barbados??? coasts, officials are taking all the necessary steps to protect the island???s coral reef ecosystems.
As a result, divers and fishermen are being invited to take part in a lionfish derby on Saturday, May 24, at the Harbour Lights in Carlisle Bay, Bay Street, St. Michael, as efforts intensify to bring the predator under control.
They are expected to start their hunt from sunrise and return to shore just before noon when the fish will be weighed. This will be in preparation for some of Barbados??? top chefs to take over preparing dishes using the lionfish during the cook-off which kicks off at 1:00 p.m. Members of the public are invited to come out and sample these dishes.
Divers and fishermen interested in taking part in the derby are asked to contact the Coastal Zone Management Unit at 622-1610 or the Barbados Lionfish hotline at 824-8361 to register.
Meanwhile, Marine Biologist at the Coastal Zone Management Unit, Caroline Bissada-Gooding, explained that the lionfish derby was a large-scale cull where divers and fishermen would compete to catch as many of the predatory fish as possible during the contest.
She said this was necessary at this time as the fish were now being spotted around the entire island in water from as shallow as 10 feet to over 130 feet deep. ???The fish has no natural predators and they eat the reef fish which could result in a decrease in their numbers and result in the island???s coral reef ecosystems collapsing,??? she cautioned.
The Marine Biologist added that the lionfish posed a direct threat to Barbados??? fishing industry, its economy and tourism sectors. ???The lionfish reproduces every four weeks, with over 15, 000 eggs each time. That reproduction process can start from just under one year-old, so the population is exploding,??? Bissada-Gooding said.
She added that human beings were the fish???s only predators, and it was necessary to keep their numbers in check. The coastal expert noted that if the lionfish population could be reduced by at least 70 per cent, that would allow the reef fish room to survive.??To do so, Bissada-Gooding said, it was necessary to have regular culls and introduce the lionfish as a food fish.
The upcoming lionfish derby will feature Chefs Marco Festini-Comer of Daphne???s Restaurant, Danny Oshea of Mojos Restaurant, Renrick Williams of Bajan Boyz Entertainment, Henderson Butcher of Divi Southwinds and Oliver Hinds of Waves Hotel.