Taming Lions and Breaking Records in Bimini
(DiverWire) The 3rd Annual Bimini Sands Resort & Marina Lionfish Bash was one for the record books. Bimini Sands, along with the Woody Foundation, a Miami based 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization, hosted this event for the third year in a row to raise money and awareness for spinal cord injuries. James “Woody” Beckham grew up diving in Bimini and has not let a spinal cord injury he suffered in 2011, stop him from enjoying the beautiful blue water Bimini is famous for.
Lionfish are gorgeous creatures, but these invasive beauties have become the, “curse of the Caribbean,” with their voracious appetites, ability to reproduce year round and lack of natural predators. Recently found at depths of 300 ft in the Atlantic, the range of their damage has exceeded expectations. Lionfish rodeos and derbies have become a popular means of extracting the fish in large quantities and lionfish being offered in an increasing number of menus. It may seem cruel to aggressively eradicate a species, but the damage these eating machines are doing to coral reefs throughout the Atlantic is unrivaled and must be stopped.
Lionfish do not have a discerning pallet and seem to eat anything smaller than them. Eating mass quantities of juvenile fish has a negative cascading effect on the entire reef ecosystem. . Bimini Sands activities directors and marine biologists, Katie Grudecki and Grant Johnson informed spectators and competitors about the critical importance of removing lionfish from the waters around Bimini and throughout the Atlantic.
Anglers in the competition had to freedive and could only use pole spears or Hawaiian slings. Conditions were less than ideal for the July 12-14 event, but teams rallied and put in a solid and record-breaking effort. Returning champions Team G & R came out with guns blazing and shattered their own record of 143 fish from last year and an all time bash record of 207 fish. Returning junior angler champion, 11-year-old Gabriela Alvarez took the title again with her 27.95 oz (1.75 lbs) fish. The Sharklab team came on strong despite some of their veteran slingers being off island. Their new talent brought in a total of 79 fish for second place. Sharklab media manager CJ Crooks ran the gamete taking home the prize for both largest and smallest lionfish. His 38.65 oz (2.42 lbs) was the largest ever caught in the history of the bash and his .033 oz was the smallest. This year also saw the total number of lionfish squeak past the 1000 mark with a three year total of 1001 fish. The 338 fish collected were not wasted, with the larger fish filleted and served at the awards dinner and the rest stored for use on the resort’s eco-tourism shark dives.
Woody Foundation Executive Director Lucy Foerster had this to say about the weekend,
“The Lionfish Bash puts together a few of my favorite things: family, spending time on the water and giving back to a larger community. This weekend event provides such a large platform for a group of people to help wipe away an invasive species while also raising funds for a worthy cause.”
- 1st Place for Most Lionfish (207): Team G&R ( Alfredo Alvarez, Susana Airala, Gabriela Alvarez, Iggy Bustamente, Andres Penate & Carmen Penate)
- 2nd Place for Most Lionfish (79): Team SharkLab ( CJ Crooks, Lindsay Biermann, TJ Ostendorf, George Davis, Antonia Pascale Ash & Clement Chazot )
- Biggest Lionfish (38.65 oz.): CJ Crooks from Team Sharklab
- Biggest Lionfish/Junior Division (27.95 oz.): Gabriela Alvarez, age 11, from Team G&R.
- Smallest Lionfish (0.033 oz.): CJ Crooks from Team SharkLab.