Mustique, May 20, 2014 – Six divers went lionfish hunting at Petit Canouan and got 43 big ones in a single 42 minute dive. “The dive at Petit Canouan was spectacular,” said Glenroy Adams of Grenadines Dive. “There are plenty of lionfish there and they are large but we had a good team to battle them.” The dive was one activity in the lionfish tour of the Grenadines organized by the Mayreau Regatta and Sporting Committee, together with Grenadines Dive.
“Truly, the success of our lionfish tour of the Grenadines has been built on the expertise and cooperation of local folks on each island where we’ve stopped,” explained Nancy Saul-Demers of the Mayreau Regatta and Sporting Committee. “On this occasion, following advice from local fishermen we headed to Petit Canouan. Our three divers were joined by Mustique harbourmaster Berris Little and Brian Richards and Corney Ollivierre from Mustique Watersports. The Mustique Watersports dive boat was ably captained by Raymond Dewer, who dropped us at just the right spot. Then teamwork really paid off with us spearing, on average, a lionfish per minute.” The largest fish was 15 1/4 inches long and weighed in at 1.75 pounds. “We had to measure several big ones to determine which was longest as many were quite close in size. We haven’t seen so many large ones all in one spot before.”
All of the lionfish were used to demonstrate safe handling and filleting for chefs, fishermen, workers and visitors. At the same time, Nancy Saul-Demers explained that lionfish belong in the South Pacific and Indian Oceans and began to invade Atlantic and Carribean waters after being released from a Florida aquarium in the mid-eighties, arriving in waters around St. Vincent and the Grenadines in very late 2011 and early 2012. “We have the great advantage of being able to learn from other countries that were invaded by lionfish many years before they arrived here,” said Saul-Demers. “We know that regular culls are effective in managing the lionfish population and giving local fish a chance.”
“This species reproduces very rapidly, with two million plus eggs laid by a single female in just one year, and they’re greedy predators of our local fish, lobsters, shrimps and so on, so they’re a threat to our tourism and fisheries industries,” said Saul-Demers. The good news is how delicious lionfish are, as testified by the 83 folks of all ages who stopped by the Mustique fishermen’s village and quickly consumed meals featuring lionfish taken out of the water just hours before. “We’re very grateful to Mustique Villa Manager Darnley Hazel for all his efforts to organize our community barbecue. While we’re encouraging fishermen to hunt lionfish, we’re also encouraging restaurants to serve them and encouraging both locals and visitors alike to eat them at home and ask for lionfish dishes at restaurants. As many folks say, we have to eat them to beat them.”
Mayreau held their first annual lionfish derby in 2012 and since then they’ve continued annual derbies, held regular lionfish hunts with Grenadines Dive, written and performed an educational play, done school presentations, worked with the Tobago Cays Marine Park to organize the first-ever Union Island Lionfish Derby, served up their first annual lionfish cooking competition and tasting and hosted a workshop on making jewellery from lionfish spines, tails and fins. The group is grateful to the United Nation’s Global Environment Facility Small Grant program for enabling this expansion of their efforts to manage the lionfish invasion.
Nancy Saul-Demers, Mayreau Regatta and Sporting Committee