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HEATHER-LYNN’S HABITAT: Gearing up for Lionfish Derby

HEATHER-LYNN EVANSON, [email protected]

HEATHER-LYNN’S HABITAT: Gearing up for Lionfish Derby

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DIVERS WILL BE bringing out their spears as the third annual Lionfish Derby takes place at Pirates Cove, Lower Bay Street, St Michael, on Sunday.

And when they have removed as many of the invasive species from the island’s reefs, Barbados’ top chefs will go to work, turning the voracious feeder into tasty morsels for its only known predator – hungry humans.

The Barbados Lionfish Derby, now in its third year, has become one of the major ways of drumming up awareness about the fish that has been known for its ability to eat almost everything in sight and reproduce at an alarming rate.

This year the event, led by Scott Clarke of the Barbados Lionfish Project, is a collaboration among numerous dive shops, restaurants, fisherfolk, SlowFood Barbados and the Coastal Zone Management Unit.

In its first year, divers removed 222 lionfish from the waters around Barbados; last year, 803 were culled and this year, while no target has been set, said Nikola Simpson, everyone is hoping to eclipse that number.

“If people continually do lionfish culls it will help. A one-off lionfish derby like this will help as well because what we are encouraging people to do is do it (cull lionfish) often, which a lot of the dive shops do. When they go out on their dives and they see lionfish, they will shoot them and take them off the reefs,” she said, adding the initiative would bring as many divers together so the entire coastal waters could be hunted for lionfish.

The fisheries consultant and marine biologist told Heather-Lynn’s Habitat the event was also attempting to open the restaurant market for the fish that was available year-round.

“The Lionfish Derby is to raise awareness on the issue and to create more of a market for them as well, because they are on some menus and some people like them, but I guess there is still a fear of them since they have spines that are venomous. So people are still a bit nervous to handle them and eat them but once you cut off those spines, they are fine to eat,” she stressed.

Simpson said the derby would help to keep the problems created by the invasive species in the public domain.

“Obviously if there isn’t a market for something, people aren’t going to go after it. So it’s to try and create that market and also provide linkages between the fishermen and the restaurants. So I believe something like this is very useful. I think it will be useful to do it a bit more but at least one is better than nothing,” she said.

The derby will be an all-day event, with divers taking to the waters from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. When they return to the Lower Bay Street location, their catches will be weighed, measured, de-spined and prepared for the pots.

In the evening, chefs will then serve up the lionfish in a variety of ways.  (HLE)