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Grand Cayman dive operator offers FREE scuba diving to hunt lionfish

(DiverWire) Saturday, January 28, 2012 Red Sail Sports Grand Cayman will offer a FREE scuba dive to hunt and cull invasive red lionfish threatening the reefs of the Cayman Islands. The fish caught will be cleaned and delivered to the fish market at local grocer Foster’s Food Fair on Monday morning. Lionfish filet is light, delicately flavored and reportedly very good eating.  Foster’s Food Fair is hoping its Monday lionfish catch will be popular with local cooks.

photo by Stephen Frink

The one-tank dive is the beginning of a dedicated monthly effort by Grand Cayman’s dive operators, in partnership with Foster’s Food Fair, to eradicate the poisonous invaders and add a new seafood delicacy to local menus. Fosters Food Fair has contributed $20,000 to the cause for dive expenses and a portion of the fish sold at the market will go back into an operational fund to keep the lionfish dives going.

“If weather conditions permit, the first dives will hunt for Lionfish on the lesser-dived reefs of the island’s North Side and East End where they have thrived,” said Rod McDowall Red Sail Sports Operations Manager. “For some time now operators have been culling the reefs on the West Side where Grand Cayman’s most popular dive sites are located.”

Originally from the Pacific Ocean and popular as aquarium fish, lionfish are colorful with venomous spikey tentacles. First spotted in Florida waters in 1985, the population of the voracious predator has exploded in recent years and spread throughout the Caribbean. To control this marine pest, conservation groups are encouraging fishermen and divers to catch lionfish and eat them. A lionfish cookbook featuring 45 recipes is now available. Lionfish arrived in Cayman waters about three years ago and they continue to multiply and threaten smaller reef fish.

The one-tank dives will take place the last weekend of each month, and they are free for volunteers who are properly trained to spear the lionfish or catch them with nets.  Lionfish “spotters” are also needed.  Red Sail Sports will provide all necessary equipment for the roundup. To sign up for the lionfish dive or to know more about getting certified to hunt and spear them, call Red Sail Sports at 345-949-8745.

Spearing of any other fish on scuba in the Cayman Islands is prohibited and a violation of the Cayman Islands Marine Conservation Laws.

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