Utila Dive Shops Hold Lionfish Derby

December 20th, 2012


(Photo courtesy Shawn Doyle)

Utila dive shops organized another lionfish derby November 30, with most shops participating.

Lionfish, which are native to the Indo-Pacific region, were introduced into the Atlantic in the 1990s and have multiplied rapidly, since they have no natural predators (see Conservation Notes on page 24; also, there is a lionfish recipe on page 22).

The Voice’s Utila correspondent notes the invasive species has been seen in increasingly deep water around Utila of late, with some migrating deeper than 300 feet. A large congregation was seen at 230 feet on a recent dive, and another group of 12, with some weighing at least five pounds, was found at 140 feet. Another diver reported seeing one measuring 18 inches.

In the heat of the hunt several divers came too close to the venomous spines and suffered substantial pain for hours.
More than 300 lionfish were killed in the derby and enjoyed as ceviche at a post-Thanksgiving feast the following day.

The dive community hopes these lionfish derbies are making at least a  dent in the fast-multiplying lionfish population, which is decimating other reef fish populations. The next hunt should be happening in the spring.

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