A showstopper in any tropical aquarium, lionfish is voluptuously endowed with feathery, red-and-white zebra-striped fins… yet as strikingly beautiful as they are, they’re a serious menace to our marine ecosystem because they upset the ecological balance of our coral reefs. We’d love to see them all behind glass, on our plates (yum!), or not at all.
Indigenous to the Indo-Pacific region, the species was unintentionally introduced to the Atlantic Ocean and is becoming an invasive species along the eastern U.S. coast and throughout the Caribbean. Venomous and disruptive, lionfish were first spotted in our waters in October 2009, Curaçao Health Minister Jacinta Constancia responded to their threat by announcing an urgent need to reduce the number of lionfish and ordering 100 hundred mini-harpoons from the US to this end (spearfishing is otherwise illegal).
The mini-harpoons were distributed among a group of marines and 30 volunteers from our diving industry. Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Services (LVV) and Carmabi have been hard at work over the past couple of years, depleting this unwanted population and re-introducing its natural enemy (the grouper) by establishing protected no-fishing zones.
So far, our Lionfish Elimination Team (LET) formed in April 2011 by a group of social-media savvy divers between the ages of 18-22, Cival van der Lubbe, Jordan Wederfoort, Willem Evertsz, Pieter Evertsz, Jeff Schanze, has been most effective at eradicating our pesky lionfish population. Their popular Facebook page and website provides useful information and keeps ‘score’ among LET divers. Allie Elhage (now an invaluable LET diver) introduced the group to the Zookeeper (a very effective, funny-looking tube that makes one-handed shooting easier while reducing the risk of being stung by the lionfish). Diving legends Eric and Yolanda Wederfoort and Curd Evertsz (CITRO) serve as coaches and advisors to LET and have certified almost all of LET Divers. (LET Divers include all of the above founders as well as Carlito Mau Asam, Mateo Gomez, Emiel Samandar)
Grassroots ‘lionfish hunting’ competitions among Boka Samí, Caracasbaai, Marie Pompoen fishermen and divers have also been very effective. Most brag about their ‘results’ on Facebook, but don’t be fooled by the excited trash-talking, the hunt isn’t all fun and games, an off-chance lionfish sting is poisonous and numbing to the nervous system. (Good thing) lionfish venom is contained in their spines, so when cut off, they can safely be eaten. Lionfish has a uniquely delicious taste, and you can find the delicacy at several local restaurants, fish markets, and ‘dives’,
My recommendation is that you BYO (drinks), BYOP (plate) and BY10 guilders to Twindivers’ Mariepompoen sea freight container every Thursday night and participate in their awesome lionfish BBQ feast! Check out Twindivers’ Facebook page for more info.