Free lionfish and fritters on Brac Saturday night

| 18/03/2011

(CNS): Following two days of a concentrated lionfish cull around Cayman Brac today (Friday) and tomorrow, residents and tourists on the island will be given the opportunity to see what the pesky critters taste like during happy hour at La Esperanza. Local fisherman Elvis McKeever will be frying up lionfish and fritters, which will be given away to anyone willing to give them a try. DoE Research Officer Bradley Johnson noted that outside the marine parks anyone with a regular spearfishing licence can catch as many lionfish as they like – unlike native species there is no limit to how many people can catch.

Nine divers will be going out in the two Department of Environment vessels today, and Reef Divers has donated a 2-tank dive for each of the lionfish hunters to go out on Saturday. At the end of each day’s cull, the fish will be cleaned at Carib Sands dock and handed over to McKeever to season up for the fish fry. Care must be taken when cleaning the fish as their sharp venomous spines can inflict painful wounds. However, once the spines are removed the flesh is safe to eat.

The fish can easily be caught while snorkelling as well as diving as they can be found at all depths, from one foot to 1,000 feet, and have been spotted all over the Brac, including the Panama Canal and inside the reef on the south side, Johnson said.

Saturday night’s fish fry will start at 6:00pm at La Esperanza in the Creek, and Johnson will also be giving a short presentation about the invasion of the lionfish into Cayman waters and explain why the DoE is concerned about their impact on the reefs.

Indigenous to the Indo- Pacific Ocean, lionfish were first reported off Florida’s Atlantic coast in the mid-1980s. Their numbers have exploded along the US eastern seaboard, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean over the last decade, to the detriment of native fish. Although they are beautiful, the lionfish have voracious appetites and gobble up juveniles of other species.

Their only significant predators are humans, and the DoE is encouraging people to catch and eat as many as possible and is hoping that residents develop a taste for them. Inside marine parks it is illegal to catch them without a specific licence to do so, but outside the parks there is no catch limit for lionfish.


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