June 13, 2014
Inaugural lionfish derby

Last Monday, June 9, mainland St Vincent saw its first ever Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) sanctioned lionfish derby as a new activity in the established events for Fisherman’s Day.

Nine registered teams took part {{more}}in the derby on Monday, which ran from 3:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. On the day a total catch of 989 lionfish were cleared from our local waters.

Team Serenity Dive from Caliaqua earned first prize for the most heads, bringing in 293 lionfish. Trade Winds from RathoMill took the second place spot with 157 heads and Indigo Dive Slayers from Buccament brought in 135 lionfish for the 3rd spot. A highlight on the day was Mr Clarence Kirby, who single-handedly caught 77 lionfish by free-diving.

Team Indigo Dive Slayers got the largest fish, a 410 mm monster, that’s roughly 16.14 inches. Team Barefoot also brought in a lionfish measuring 410 mm; however, due to rule 16 of the National Fisherman’s Day Lionfish Derby 2014, the winning team was determined by the earliest check-in of its lionfish at the scoring station and that team was Indigo Dive Slayers. The smallest lionfish of the derby was caught by Rolex Night Divers from Prospect; it was 70 mm long or roughly two and a three-quarter inches.

According to Jeremy Searles, an assistant at the Fisheries Division and the derby’s main coordinator, “The derby was a huge success and it was great seeing all teams working tirelessly to bring in just shy of 1,000 heads of lionfish. There was as great mutual support throughout the day as participants acknowledged that they’re all playing a part in sustaining our nation’s reef fishery and tourist industry by ridding our waters of this invasive species. Samples of the lionfish were also prepared at the Calliaqua Playing Field by chefs from the Paradise Beach Hotel, to give persons their first chance to eat this very tasty dish.”

Searles also stated “While it was good that so much lionfish was brought in, it also speaks volumes to the high numbers that are present in our coastal waters. This was mainland’s first REEF sanctioned derby and though it was such a huge success, there still exists room for improvement. It is therefore hoped that for future endeavours, we have even more participants coming on board, as well as sponsorship from the private sector.”

Gratitude is extended to the Fisheries Division for their support in the venture, as well as the Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF), Deutsche Gesellschaft Für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) acting through the Caribbean Aqua Terrestrial Solutions (CATS) Component 2 project, Paradise Beach Hotel, Serenity Diveshop, Mrs Kay Wilson, St Vincent Brewery Limited, St Vincent Distillers Limited, Super J IGA supermarkets, Save-a-Lot food stores, IKTV and the National Parks, Rivers and Beaches Authority for their donations and invaluable support. Indeed a special thank you is warranted for all those who participated and made this event a success and we look forward to the continued support in future endeavours.

The lionfish derby was one of the events in the 2014 Fisherman’s Day Competition. The day also included the traditional fishing competition and ceremony at the Calliaqua Playing Field.(contributed by the Fisheries Division)