Bermuda‘s first Lionfish Tournament resulted in just four participants returning with lionfish for the weigh-in. Although this might sound disheartening, it is actually happy news for Lionfish project leader Chris Flook of the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo since it indicates a relative scarcity of lionfish in Bermuda waters.

Lionfish is an invasive species in the Caribbean where it lacks naturally predators and multiplies uncontrollably. In the Bahamas, female lionfish spawn twice a month. Lionfish Tournaments like the one just held in the Bermudas is a way to boost public awareness and decimate the number of lionfish in the Caribbean. A Lionfish Tournament held in the Bahamas a few weeks ago resulted in the catch of about 1,400 lionfish.

If we’d caught 1,000 fish it would have been very concerning, because it means it’s happening here like everywhere else,” Flook explained. “It means we may be ahead of the game and are potentially managing the population here in Bermuda.”

However, Flook also said that one of the reasons why not many fish were caught Bermuda’s Lionfish Tournament could be that they were hiding in deep waters following the storm surge of the recent Hurricane Bill and Tropical Storm Danny.

Mr. Flook began the Lionfish Culling Programme last year to encourage divers and fishermen to hunt down the species. Organised by environmental group Groundswell, the ‘Eat ‘um to beat ‘um’ event also aimed to show how invasive lionfish can be utilized as a food source.

“I think everybody who tasted it was very for it. It’s a great tasting fish,” said Flook, as Chris Malpas, executive chef at the Bank of Butterfield, cooked up samples of speared lionfish at Pier 41.

The tournament has got the message out and so now hopefully people might start asking for lionfish in restaurants and fishermen will bring them in rather than throwing them overboard.

By eating lionfish we will take the pressure off some of our commercial fish. Every one you take is one less eating our juvenile fish,” said Flook.

If you want to know more about spearfishing lionfish in Bermudas, contact the Bermuda Aquarium at 293-2727 ext. 127, or the Marine Conservation Officer at 293-4464 extension 146 or e-mail lionfish@gov.bm. The Marine Conservation Officer should also be contacted if you see a lionfish in Bermuda waters.