On Friday, November, 4, nineteen teams from 9 dive centers participated in the Lion Fish Derby. The event, organized and orchestrated by BICA and UCME, involved the entire community in an attempt to garner awareness and kill lion fish. By the days end, 305 lion fish had been killed, making a huge dent in this population and helping to protect Utila's ancient reefs from these invasive species.
Red Lion Fish is a Pacific species that has decimated reefs throughout the Caribbean. As recently as three years ago, they were not commonly observed in Utilian waters. A qualitative observation made during the intake on Friday was that a greater percentage of the fish brought in were more than 15 cm compared to those in the April event.
The following day, the people of Utila gathered at Tranquila Bar for a free lion fish lunch. 109 pounds of meat were taken from the fish, and cooked in various ways from soup to ceviche, by five chefs who donated their time. In addition to a good time, the cookoff demonstrated not only that lion fish can be eaten, but that they are quite tasty. Hopefully, lion fish will be introduced to local diets and become an integral part of menus around the island.
Deep Blue Divers took home the first place prizes for total fish (79), largest fish (29.2 cm) while Ecomarine garnered the smallest fish (7.6 cm). The team championship went to "Scousers Aggro," also of Deeo Blue Divers.
The dive centers now regularly attempt to eradicate lion fish during their dive trips, and BICA routinely takes interested persons to Turtle Harbour to snorkel and attempt to kill lion fish. If you would like to participate, please contact your local dive center or the BICA office.
Look for announcements for the next derby, which will likely be in the Spring.