East End dive resort culls over 10,000 lionfish

| 26/03/2014

(CNS): The extent of the problem with lionfish in local waters has been highlighted by the whopping numbers of the marine pest caught by local divers at just one resort. Out in East End Steve Broadbelt and his team at Ocean Frontiers have now culled 10,000 lionfish from East End reefs since they started hunting the marine pest three years ago. As the fish get more adept at avoiding their human, and at present only, predator, keeping the numbersdown has become critical as experts lose hope of eradicating them. Matt Russell, a divemaster/instructor, has watched the invasion with deep concern and said the fish are deadly to our reefs. “If we don’t stop them something bad is going to happen,” he said. 

Russell consistently culls large numbers, including a record breaking 56 fish during one 2-tank dive, and teaches customers how to safely and humanely remove the invasive species from the reefs.

“The hunt was wickedly fun at first, but now I feel an obligation to get as many people involved as I can,” he said as concern over the number of the exceptionally adaptable and resilient fish grows.

Ocean Frontiers runs a weekly cull with customers to keep the population down but Broadbelt says he is now organizing special trips as a more aggressive approach is needed for other areas of the reef not regularly dived.

“These trips target the hard to reach areas that are too far to get to on a typical half day trip,” he said. “We’ve also developed what we call ‘parachute drop culling’ where we split the residents into three teams and drop them off along the reef sequentially at the estimated distance apart that they are expected to cover. This enables us to cull over one mile of linear reef at a time.”

So far the resort has killed 10,202 lionfish and all the data about the culls is documented and reported to the Department of Environment, where a lionfish database is kept. Broadbelt said the data  collected indicates that their efforts in the area are reducing numbers at popular dive sites but the DoE has raised its concerns that the fish are getting better at avoiding divers on the reefs away from popular spots where the culling is more frequent, and they are still thriving.

"Yes culling is making a difference, but it is like a leaking boat,” said Broadbelt. “Every time we bail out some water … more just keeps coming back in. We can keep bailing and bailing, but we have to find a better long term solution," he added.

Most marine environmental experts will confirm that over-fishing has dramatically reduced the numbers of many native fish species, and it is by putting lionfish on the menu as a staple fish food that Cayman will have its best hope of managing the numbers. Chef Ron Hargrave, who owns Tukker restaurant at East End and Eagle Ray’s Dive Bar & Grill at the Ocean frontiers resort at Compass Point, has cooked up 6000 pounds of the predators and is playing his part in the goal to beat them by eating them. Hargrave said customers enjoy the delicate, flakey, white meat which he describes as mild and tasty.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Category: Science and Nature

About the Author ()

Comments (20)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Soapbox Sally says:

    I don't see them in the supermarket – to really boost demand put them in Fosters, Kirks and Hurleys with a recipe card.  I would be happy to do my part by eating them – if I know how to safely prepare and cook them.

  2. Bottom Feeder says:

    Why not use some of that $25,000,000 money that we waste every year on the Department of Tourism??

    We are pouring it down the drain, so we might as well dump some into the ocean.

  3. Anonymous says:

    DoE needs to beef up the lionfish education of the public as the radio talk show had some callers who were extremely misinformed.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Why Goverment?why not the private sector?why not the residents?why not the people who really love these Islands?come on ,do we have to wait on the Govt.for everything?

    • Anonymous says:

      Well for one.

      The Government has to give  the people the right to use thes instruments to catch the lion fish. They cant just go and catch them with their bare hands.

      But i see your point. Government takes forever and a day to make decisions like this, especially where it will help and assist the common man, at the same time culling the fish.

      • Anonymous says:

        Last I checked, DOE was doing it's part to boost information levels by offering regular free training courses and issuing spear licenses. Talk about misinformed. I love when people bark out that government should do "X" when government has already been doing "X" for years now. Get with the program. 



  5. Anonymous says:

    I love them, it’s similar to grouper! Bracka

  6. Anonymous says:

    Well done guys – thank you for your efforts!

  7. Kadafe says:

    Thank you guys very much for your continuing efforts. Excellent job!

  8. Maria Yapelli says:



  9. Henry 111 says:

    What I would like to know is what sort of damage control has been put in place by the dive industry to ensure idiots like the guy uploading shark attack on YouTube  doesn't have a negative impact on these islands?

    also why is it that he was in possession of an equipment he was not licensed to use and was able to leave the island freely? Where did he get the equipment? Did he bring here with him? 

    Certainly if this was a caymanian a different scenario would have transpired.

    • Anonymous says:

      Thats exactly my point, where are the spears that the Government promised the local people, so they too, can embark on this lucretive adventure.


  10. Anonymous says:

    People should be eating lionfish instead of grouper.

  11. Anonymous says:

    A mere drop in the ocean. You add another zero on that and I'll be impressed because these things breed like there's no tomorrow. 

  12. Anonymous says:

    Govt need to hire a few divers & clean them out!

    • Anonymou says:

      You do not understand the extent of the problem. They will never be wiped out. Hopefully over time predators will evolve to keep their numbers un control naturally.

    • Anonymous says:

      Someone is always looking for money from Government.  Why not get the license from DOE, catch the Lionfish and Sell them for the Money the restaurants and grocery stores are willing to pay? 


  13. Anonymous says:

    Lionfish fingers and fritters are excellent. We just need to establish it in the local consciousness as an alternative to traditional seafood options.

    This is a fish you can eat without any feelings of concern for maintaining its stock.

    It took mankind 500 years to destroy the cod stocks of north Atlantic. Surely we can do a more efficient job with the lionfish.