Try and imagine the most perfect, adaptive, invasive organism. An organism that can invade a host and reek havoc on it’s ability to maintain balance. An organism that devours everything in it’s surroundings leaving behind a host with little or no defense mechanisms intact. You might think i’m referring to some sort of alien being or super virus. No, i’m referring to the invasive Indo Pacific Red Lionfish “ Pterois volitans”.
Lionfish might indeed be mother natures most keenly designed invasive species. Originally from the South Pacific and Indian Ocean, the Lionfish made it’s first appearance in south Florida around 1985. Since then, the Lionfish has spread like wildfire all throughout the Atlantic and Caribbean primarily due to it’s incredibly prolific nature.
While the fish in itself is stunningly beautiful, the actions of the fish are not quite so appealing. Lionfish are voracious predators. They feast on both ecologically and economically important
Pecies like grunts, snapper, nassau grouper, and cleaner shrimp. On top of this, lionfish have no known natural predators in their new environment. That was of course until man started removing the fish in an effort to slow the damage caused by the invasive juggernaut.
While diving with lionfish generally poses no danger to divers, handling the fish during the culling process can be a bit tricky.
Lionfish have venom glands located alongside two groves that run the length of the spine. This venom is transferred from tissue to tissue meaning you need to be pricked by the fish to feel the effect. This can cause extreme pain as well as sweating, respiratory distress, and even paralysis. Avoiding the dorsal, anal, and pelvic fins during handling is of most importance, alive or dead.
Fortunately, lionfish are one of the most delicious fish in the sea. But wait, the news gets even better. Not only can you feel great about eating an invasive species for dinner, it’s also very good for you! Lionfish have been shown to have a higher level of Omega 3 fatty acids than other tropical fish. They are also lower in saturated fats and heavy metals such as mercury, the heavy metal commonly found in tuna.
If you would like to participate in the culling process, you’re in luck. Ambassador Divers offers an exclusive PADI lionfish spearing program. This one day course gives student cullers the knowledge and ability to safely hunt, spear, capture and handle the invasive species.
How does it work you ask?
It’s simple. Contact us on our local or email firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know when you would like to start your lionfish culling certification. The program typically starts with a short theory/classroom session around 9:00 AM followed by two hunting dives with one of our expert lionfish instructors. This program is completed in only one day and afterwards the student is presented with a lionfish spearing certification from PADI, the Professional Association of Diving Instructors. This spearing program is offered exclusively by Ambassador Divers and is not available anywhere else in the Cayman Islands.
Check out the video below for more details.