Tourists offered reduced rates to help cull lionfish

| 30/09/2011

(CNS): Scuba diving visitors can now pay less for the certification and the licence to help cull the invasive red lionfish, which have become a major environmental issue in recent years. With recent approval from the Marine Conservation Board several months ago, Cayman’s dive operators are now able to teach the PADI Lionfish Tracker Distinctive Specialty course, and upon completion, guests receive the PADI c-card plus the local lionfish culling license. And now some Cayman Island dive operators are offering reduced course fees to visitors and residents this fall.

“With reduced course fees for the lionfish culling course for both residents and visitors, we hope will encourage more manpower to help us fight this invasion” comment Steve Broadbelt of Ocean Frontiers in a release from the Cayman Islands Tourism Association. “We cannot totally eradicate the lionfish, but learning lessons from the Bahamas for example, if we do not keep this fish in check, our indigenous marine life will be gone. This results in a reduction of fish stock, marine life and allows corals to become covered in algae, so the health of the coral reefs is at stake and we need all hands on deck”

Currently, reduced price courses are available from Divetech, Ocean Frontiers, Deep Blue Divers, Cayman Turtle Divers, Divers Down and Dive N Stuff (at the time of release) or check with your local dive shop to inquire about the course. After your course, there are boats running from various operators every week to cull lionfish, along with the tournaments run by Ambassador Divers, so there is a lot of opportunity to use the new skills.

“Snorkelers can help too as many lion fish can be found in shallow waters just off shore and in the canals in the North Sound. This is prime breeding ground for lobsters, groupers, snappers and more, so removing lionfish from the North Sound can play a huge role in helping to cull the invasion” stated Nancy Easterbrook of Divetech. “They are tasty – a light white fish that needs a little special handling while filleting to remove the venomous spines, but well worth it. Many restaurants are now serving lionfish on a special or full time menu, so ask for lion fish when you are next out to dinner, or try it at home. Not only will this help create a market for the lionfish, but it will have the positive side effect of reducing the demand for the ‘traditional’ eating fish like conch, grouper and snapper, allowing fish stocks to grow and be sustainable.”

Rod McDowall of Red Sail Sports “We’d like to express our thanks to all of the sponsors that continue to help us in the effort to cull the lionfish. Its encouraging to see non-traditional dive industry companies and individuals come forward that are helping to make this a truly holistic effort that we hope to win, as it’s a challenge that’s day in and day out, and affects every one of us.”

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  1. Mr Guy says:

    Kill them all! there just as annoying as flies and mosquitos

  2. Jimmy the Lion Fish says:

    You're gonna cull me and my bredren?

    Well let me tell you… We Lionfish are ready for a fight!

    Bring it on!


  3. Passive says:

    Is there a way to catch them other than manually?  People have fish pots which trap fish until the person returns?  Is it possible to do something similar for the lionfish?

    Are there other options rather than having to spear them? 

    The DOE staff can hire a specialist team of individuals whom solely cull lionfish.  These individuals can be part-time/temporary staff, local/expat alike are allowed without the payment made by the DOE a breach of the expats work permit

  4. Anonymous says:

    Why charge for a culling course/licence isnt it in the industries best interest to do it and protect the reef thereby ensuring a continued source of income? Stop charging for people doing us a service. Advertise it as a bonus to the open water course to increase the adventure of diving in Cayman.

    Sheesh, can't see the forest for the trees.

    • Love it! says:

      Agreed! Advertise that a free licence ia given to tourists whom wish to cull lionfish with free instruction.

      They are beautiful fish and apparently very tasty!

    • Anonymous says:

      What are you doing to help?  This is not a one off donation – it's everey day – day in and day out and forever and this problem effects everyone. Why are the dive operators alone supposed to solve the problem? How can they be realistically expected to pay the staff, pay CUC bills, Gov't fees, licenses, pay registration fees, fuel for boats and for books, tanks, nets, spears and more and not charge anything? They will not stay in business. The dive operators have been giving out free tanks and boats and agressively going after lion after work, during work and on days off since they arrived. Help is needed!

    • Anonymous says:

      Thank you for commenting, it is obvious you are also interested in getting rid of this terrible invador to our waters that are eating our young fish faster than they can be born, therefore killing off the chance for  more fish to grow and thrive in our marine waters, which eat the bad algea on our reefs and keep our reefs disease free and growing. If the lionfish continue to live in our waters and eat our small fish and invade our territory, then we will not have any reefs worth diving in the future – and that affects my business…and I am not a dive company. If we do not maintain our pristine reefs in Cayman and continue to do what we can to protect our reefs, then tourists will not come to visit Cayman. Diving is a giant industry in Cayman and we still rank top for diving. Recent international polls just listed Cayman #1 in wall diving, #2 in shore diving and #3 in visibility/marine environment health/etc. We are proud of our Cayman waters and need to maintain them. Removing lionfish from our waters is a high priority and you cannot believe the amount of money spent by the private sector, especialliy by dive operators, to research and eradicate this monster. Have you recorded with the DOE how many lionfish you have caught? Are you in meetings every week to support the on going initiative to fight this battle? Are you out there DAILY killing lionfish? Do you use your boat and add wear/tear, gas/diesel, staff time, purchased spears to help out, boat insurance? It takes money to solve a problem as big as this one…and THANK YOU to the dive industry for diligently helping with this challenge on a daily basis and for coming up with a discounted way for everyone to participate. THANK YOU for caring about Cayman's future so we can live here for many years to come proud of having the best reefs in the world.

  5. ANONy says:

    Swimming is taught at public schools.  How about get all the students certified to scuba dive.  They can at age 12.  They as they get older and are able to go deep enough, have these students cull the lionfish.  They will be able to do it on their own time.  They will feel a part of the community and maybe they won’t say there is nothing to do because diving will open them to a whole new world. Of course do this in addition to providing the tourists discounts. 

    • Anonymous says:

      PADI junior starts at 10, but honestly, note catching these buggers is dangerous and not for novices.  It also requires training AND safety equipment AND specialised tools which are not freely available.

      • What is wrong? says:

        So get all the public school kids certified at age 10 by the time they get to high school they would have a few years diving experience.  They would all be taught the necessary skills to dive and safety.  Maybe then in the last two years of high school they will have the years of experience and then provided the opportunity to cull the lionfish.  The equipment would be paid for by the govt.  The money can come from the nation building fund. 

        Diving can keep the kids busy.  They would build a sense of pride by helping their country.  They would contribute positively to the country.  It may even keep them off the streets and they would do something productive.  Hey…it may even get them involved in the tourism industry for the long term. 



        • Anonymous says:

          Good idea.  It always amazes me when people say there is nothing for Cayman's youth to do, and that is why some get into trouble.  Other people's kids come here for their vacation, and always find plenty to occupy themselves with.  Combining tourist activities with a real sense of purpose is a great idea.  Thanks for sharing something positive!

      • Anonymous says:

        Respectfully, for a local culture that has traditionally dealt with stonefish, morays, sharks, etc. There is nothing particularly dangerous about dealing with lionfish. Your training, and specialist equipment and safety tools unduly complicate the issue. Let 16 year olds out there with hook sticks and the problem will be significantly reduced.

        • Anonymous says:

          Each fish has 13 Dorsal and 3 Anal spines primed with a neurotoxin that could cause permanent tissue/nerve damage, paralysis and even death.  Taking the class and using safety gear and taking requisite precaution is thus a recommended approach.  We shouldn't encourage serious incidents at depth due to a lack of training (when it is readily available).  Please help, but please for the sake of yourself and your buddy, learn to do it safely!  Call DOE and book your class!   

      • Anonymous says:

        Ok since you are overprotective of your child, then allow your child to complete the course at a later age.

        In the US you can get credits towards university by enrolling in classes such as tennis, gym football etc.  It is called something much more fancy though.  How about UCCI offering a course which teaches the students the PADI course inclusive of the culling course?  To pass the course you need to pass the exam and become certified with the final grade requiring students to have caught a certain number of lionfish over the course of the semester. So say graduation of the course requires proof that the student has caught a minimum of 50 -100 lionfish The course could be offered as a one or two credit course as it would also encompass teaching about the marine parks, the importance of the marine life and the general sea environment. 

        These set of students would be caught from the lag of students which graduated from the high schools that did not previously have the opportunity.  UCCI could coordinate with the dive shops to offer the practical aspects of the course while the marine biology theory would be taught at UCCI.  The students would pay UCCI rather than the dive shops directly in order for the student to get the credit toward their university degree.

        • Anonymous says:

          The DOE training class is a 2hr lecture with handouts and slides.  You're not going to get any university credits for this.  Any university that would confer academic credits for a semester of gym football has got to be a bit suspect.  

    • Anonymous says:

      Swimming is NOT taught at the public primary school that my child attends! Just thought I'd point that fact out.

      • confused says:

        Maybe that person has their kid at the high school cause my kid is at the high school and she is getting free swimming lessons.