Last week we served lionfish on our Belize island. Our island is in a Marine Reserve, and fishing is prohibited by guests except for catch-and-release sportfishing. But lionfish are the exception. Lionfish are a Pacific fish and only recently got introduced to the Caribbean. They have no predators are are voracious eaters. They are a problem. We have blogged about this before: http://belizeadventure.com/2011/07/lionfish-an-invasive-species-in-belize/
On Glover’s Reef at Long Caye, we go kayak snorkeling every day. Guides are skilled at teaching guests to safely exit and re-enter their sea kayak without overturning. This allows everyone maximum access to snorkeling the 900 patch reefs on Glover’s Reef.
Here we are snorkeling at Horseshoe Reef, about 3/4 of a mile from our island. You can see that one of the guides has a spear gun. He is trying to spear an invasive species, lionfish.
Our island is located off the coast of Belize at Glover’s Reef Atoll, a National Marine Reserve. In order to protect the marine life there, the Belize government has prohibited fishing at Glover’s reef for tourists except for sport fishing, or catch-and-release. The only exception is if you are a native and own one of the few fishing licenses issued for Glover’s Reef.
There is one other exception: lionfish — anyone can spear them because they are an invasive species from the Pacific Ocean (the Caribbean is an Atlantic sea). Lionfish are very detrimental to the native species population, and killing them is encouraged. Watch this short video of our guide, Victor Myers, spearing one.
The lionfish, native to the Indo-Pacific region, have infiltrated their way into the Caribbean. Their introduction is believed to be a result of hurricanes and tank releases during the early 1990’s. They have been spotted along the eastern seaboard spanning as far north as Rhode Island to as far south as Columbia. Protected by venomous spines, lionfish are voracious predators. When hunting, they herd and corner their prey using their pectoral fins, then quickly strike and swallow their prey whole. With few known natural predators, the lionfish poses a major threat to coral reef ecosystems in the Caribbean region by decreasing survival of a wide range of native reef animals via both predation and competition. While native grouper may prey on lionfish, they have been overfished and therefore unlikely to significantly reduce the effects of invasive lionfish on coral reef communities.
Help us do something about this problem! Bring your spear gun with you on one of our island trips!
Last March I wrote about fishing for lionfish on our island, Long Caye at Glover’s Reef. Glover’s Reef is a protected Marine Reserve, and therefore fishing is prohibited (except catch-and-release for sport fishermen). The only fish you can catch and keep is lionfish. This is because these fish are non-native and a very recent arrival in the Caribbean, as this is a Pacific fish. Lionfish are a major problem, they are voracious eaters and are spreading rapidly. We are doing what we can, for the first time in years we are taking spearguns on snorkel expeditions. Sometimes we feed them to the eels, and we have been experimenting with lionfish as a culinary delight! View our post from last March.
Asha Agnish, a two-time return guest, just sent me an article from the New York Times about this very subject! Answer for Invasive Species: Put It on a Plate and Eat It It seems that once again, great minds think alike. Our blog was just a tiny bit ahead of the New York Times! Thanks Asha!
A few weeks ago we wrote about spearfishing for lionfish, our newest sport on our island in Belize. Lionfish were introduced to the Atlantic basin recently, and arrived at Glover’s Reef just 2 years ago. Now there is a Caribbean-wide mission to keep their numbers down, as they have no natural predators since they are a Pacific fish. They will eventually eat all of the coral fishes in the small area that they take for their territory.
Our staff have been experimenting with preparing lionfish for the table. Victor has a great idea for lionfish cooked with lemongrass and served with fresh coconut slivers in lieu of noodles (both growing on the island). Here are some shots of Victor with a recent harvest.