Divers and fishermen across Barbados will be on the hunt for the invasive lionfish on Saturday, May 24, when Barbados hosts its first derby and cook-off.

They will set out from different points from sunrise, and return to Harbour Lights on Bay Street, St. Michael for the cook-off which starts at 1:00 p.m.

This was disclosed by Marine Biologist with the CZMU, Caroline Bissada, who spoke about plans for Saturday???s event during a press briefing at the old CZMU building on Bay Street, St. Michael today.

She added that members of the public may also have free samples of lionfish dishes prepared by some of Barbados??? top chefs.

They will also be able to watch live demonstrations carried out by officials of the Fisheries Division about how to remove the spines, how to fillet the fish, the biology of the fish and how to prepare it for cooking.

???This is Barbados??? first large-scale derby, and if it is a success then I would recommend doing it again,??? Ms. Bissada stated, adding that the fish tasted like snapper and was safe to eat.

She added that Barbados was monitoring the lionfish population spread throughout the region and was now prepared and ready to respond to the threat posed by the increasing number of lionfish being found along the island???s coasts.

???We knew they were coming and we were able to prepare,??? she said. Part of that preparation involves a Lionfish Response Plan prepared by officials from the Ministry of the Environment and Drainage, the Natural Heritage Department, the CZMU, the Fisheries Division and the University of the West Indies.

In addition, baseline studies to assess Barbados??? reef communities were conducted in addition to the training of key stakeholders such as lifeguards of the National Conservation Commission, Barbados Coast Guard personnel, fishermen and local divers, about how to handle the fish as well as pain management.

Noting that the fish could now be found at depths between 10 to 100 feet in Barbados??? waters, the Marine Biologist said now was the time ???to step up to the plate???.

???The divers already started to cull them regularly, but it is time we introduced large-scale culls??? That is a competition where fishermen and divers go out to sea and they fish for the entire morning from sunrise till midday and we have a competition to see who can catch the most fish, [and] who can catch the biggest fish, [or] the smallest fish and then we bring them back and have a cook-off,??? she said.

However, Ms. Bissada gave sea bathers the assurance that the lionfish, which prefer structures such as coral reefs, barrels or pieces of concrete underwater, were no threat to them.

???They are not a cause for concern to sea bathers. They would just move away if you came to close to them. So it is more for divers and fishermen, and the people who would be handling the fish,??? she added.

She further stated that all lifeguards were trained in how to respond in the event that someone was stung by the lionfish.


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