Participants in the 7th Annual Winter Lionfish Derby landed a total of 1,215 lionfish between New Year’s Day and January 31, 2021.
The event attracted 74 participants this year, who brought in “the most lionfish ever caught in Bermuda during a single month”.
“Since 2013, the Bermuda Lionfish Task Force (BLTF) has brought together the various partners working to control the impacts of invasive lionfish on Bermuda’s marine environment,” a spokesperson said.
“An important activity for the BLTF is organizing up to four culling tournaments each year, the largest being the Winter Derby, which has been held every January since 2015.
“Participants from a broad cross section of Bermuda braved cold water and challenging conditions, with some of them going out culling almost every day.
“This year’s winning freediving team was ‘Natural Born Killers’, who managed to cull 318 lionfish, followed by ‘Team Makin Waves’ with 172 fish. In the SCUBA category, team ‘Un-Stung’ was in first place with a total of 47 fish, followed by ‘LIT Divers’ in second place with a total of 40 fish.
“Additional prizes were awarded to the top individual cullers, with the first place winner singlehandedly capturing 145 lionfish, as well as for the smallest and largest fish captured during the tournament,” the spokesperson added.
“The BLTF would like to express our appreciation to the Bermuda businesses and individuals who help support the Winter Derby, as well as the other culling events.”
Sponsors included Adrienne Smatt Designs, Atlantic Lion share, Bermuda Apnea, Blue Horizon Diving, BLTF, Blue Hole Watersports, BUEI, Blue Water Divers, C-mart, Conyers Imports, Dive Bermuda, Goslings, Lindo’s, Makin’ Waves, Marine Locker, Miles Market & PW’s Marine, Pixie Grotto, On-IT Consulting, Spar Yard, and Sexy Reef Ambassadors.
“Lionfish culling takes place throughout the year and, for the licensing year finishing January 31st, 2021, there were 107 active cullers who lead the efforts to control this invasive species. Between them, these cullers removed a reported 3099 lionfish from Bermuda’s waters during the past year. This total compares with 2806 lionfish culled during the previous year, an increase of 10%.
“While every single lionfish removed from Bermuda’s waters helps, much of the culling is done by a small number of very dedicated people who deserve special recognition. Top cullers for 2020-21 also received awards this week, with Chris Cabral, who culled a total of 640 fish, as the Lionfish King, and Jade Williams, who culled 109 fish, as the Lionfish Queen.
“Since catch reporting started in 2013, the number of lionfish culled each year has continued to increase, indicating that Bermuda’s invasive lionfish population is still expanding.
“Anyone who wishes to become a lionfish culler must attend a training course in order to obtain the necessary permit, which is issued by the Bermuda Government Department of Environment and Natural Resources [DENR]. Please email [email protected] for more information on the next available culling class.
“DENR has also established a vendor program that allows some of the most active lionfish cullers to sell their catch to restaurants and grocery stores, increasing the supply of lionfish to the market and allowing members of the public the opportunity to do their bit for marine conservation by eating this invasive species.”