Lionfish are an invasive Indo Pacific species with a voracious appetite and no natural local predators to keep their numbers down. *Photo supplied
Lionfish are an invasive Indo Pacific species with a voracious appetite and no natural local predators to keep their numbers down. *Photo supplied
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It’s that time of year when teams of eco-warriors take to the water — spears and nets in hand — to target the invasive lionfish that are threatening our local fish populations. 

The annual Groundswell Lionfish Tournament invites anyone with a lionfish permit to compete. 

There is a lionfish permit session at the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute on July 15 from 6pm by the Ocean Support Foundation. 

Ten students from Somersfield Academy have just gained their permits and OSF is looking for more people to sign up before the big day. 

The Tournament takes place on July 19 at BIOS — weigh in is at 3pm and the event will run until 7pm. As usual there will be live music, special guests DJs, a full bar and food, including samples of lionfish. 

Lionfish are an invasive Indo Pacific species with a voracious appetite and no natural local predators to keep their numbers down.  They not only damage our fish populations but also our reef system as they threaten species such as parrotfish, which help to maintain the health of the reefs. 

A multi-organizational team is currently assessing the ecological impact of lionfish on Bermuda’s marine ecosystem to help to create a targeted management plan. 

Citizen action

But currently one of the most effective ways to manage them is through citizen action and the lionfish tournament is a way to raise awareness of the fact.  

Matt Strong of Groundswell told the Bermuda Sun: “Groundswell is trying to change the mindset of Bermudians. Our reefs are under threat.  Some of these threats, like global warming and ocean acidification are hard to tackle on a local level. However, other threats such as overfishing,
pollution, and invasive species can be...

“The good news is Lionfish taste great and are easy to catch if you know how to handle them safely. 

“If we take our skill in fishing and direct this towards the lionfish we can manage their numbers. This is not about eradication but about management and the Eat ‘em to Beat ‘em campaign is our best bet at this point.  

“Come to the tournament to learn how to safely handle these fish, see how they can be prepared for cooking and taste these fish for yourself. 

“Or better yet, if you want to really make a difference, join in the tournament and kill some of these fish for yourself. If you are a strong swimmer and have some experience in spearfishing, we need your help. 

“In addition to the tasting and handling demonstrations we will have demonstrations to show what to do if you are stung. As the lionfish numbers increase, the potential for human contact with these fish increases. Lionfish have venomous spines which can cause severe pain. 

“We are hearing of stories in the Carolinas where bathers and surfers have been stung by these fish, so they also pose a human health risk if a management strategy is not adopted.”

There are new lionfish Tournament T-shirts this year by Uber Super Duper, whose clients include Green Peace and Ikea.  

To learn more about Groundswell and to join the lionfish tournament visit www.reefspect.com or visit the Facebook page, Groundswell Bda. Anyone looking for a spot on a boat can call Triangle Diving who have volunteered to take lionfish permit holders out on the day.