If you’ve been hanging out in the Caribbean Sea for the last couple of years and have yet to hear of Lionfish than I would be surprised. The long and short of it: Lionfish are from the Pacific but have somehow traveled to the Caribbean seas where they have no natural predators and thus are an evasive species. That is where the 6th Lionfish Capture Tournament comes into play.
On April 22nd, 7 boats hit the water at 6 am and went out to spear as many Lionfish as possible in hopes of winning cash prizes, fishing gear and helping do their part in reducing the population of these fish threatening the existence of Caribbean sea life. Teams were primarily from the indigenous villages of the San Cristobal island; experienced commercial fisherman who have speared many a Lionfish in their day. The fish must be caught with a harpoon/spear from 6am to 3pm, the day of the event. Prizes were awarded for the most Lionfish caught, the largest and the smallest. Here are the results:
Most Lionfish: 240, Captain Lisgo Quintero of the 20 Amores boat
Biggest Lionfish: 705g (1.5 lbs) Bahia Luna Rose
Smallest Lionfish: 3g Old Florida and Genesis
All in all, over 800 Lionfish were erradicated. Students of the School for Field Studies volunteered to help count and weigh the fish. The weigh-in and counting took place on Playa Ismito (Isthmus Beach, also known as Las Cabañas). It was the 6th tournament in 3 years. ARAP oceanographer Mr. Alberto Saa gave me the details and had this to say about the event:
“The initiative is so that the people are aware that the Lionfish is a threat to the biodiversity of the Caribbean as a whole. ARAP is doing a job that is the only known practical way to diminish the presence of Lionfish.”
Thanks Beto, well said. Many thanks go out to ARAP (Panamanian Authority of Aquatic Resources), the British Embassy who funded the event, Elvis Hidalgo of ARAP for securing the funds, the AMP (Panamanian Maratime Authority), SINAPROC, Vice-Governer Chacon, Ivan Eduard Flores and Javier Machaset of ARAP, the School for Field Studies and all fisherman who took part in the event.