As part of our Oceans Week 2021 activities, Hamanasi is hosting a week long lionfish spearfishing contest. The winner will be whoever catches the most lionfish from June 1-8, 2021. What does hunting lionfish have to do with conserving oceans? A lot!
Lionfish are a beautiful species native to the Indo-Pacific waters — not the Caribbean Sea or Atlantic Ocean. This invasive fish can cause damage, direct or indirect, to Belizean coral reefs, sea grasses and mangroves. Lionfish are voracious predators that eat native fish and crustaceans in large quantities, including both ecologically and economically important species like grunts, snapper, Nassau grouper, and cleaner shrimp. They do not have any native predators as their venomous dorsal, ventral and anal spines deter predators — and can cause painful wounds to humans. Lionfish are capable of reproducing year-round with females able to reproduce every 2-4 days! They relatively resistant to parasites, giving them another advantage over native species. Their fast growth rate, enables them to outgrow native species with whom they compete for food and space.
The Government of Belize is supportive of efforts to rid its waters of this voracious eater. Hamanasi’s Lionfish Spearfishing Adventure offers scuba divers the chance to spear this invasive species in a safe manner.
Prior to diving there is a briefing describing the lionfish, a scientific explanation of the threat the fish poses in the Caribbean and why hunting the species is ecologically sound. On the first dive the Divemaster points out the lionfish, its habitat and demonstrates how to spear and bag the fish. During the surface interval, the divers learn how to clean the fish. If the Divemaster determines that the diver has adequate dive skills, including buoyancy control, the guest may test his skills at spearfishing during the second dive under the supervision of the Divemaster. Additionally, our marine team periodically hunts for the fish and has an annual goal for its lionfish catch. All lionfish caught will be recorded to track progress in controlling the population.
Fortunately, lionfish are delicious to eat. All caught fish will be prepared fresh in the Hamanasi kitchen. Try our lionfish ceviche, fish fingers or grilled fillets.
Furthermore, beautiful crafts can be made from lionfish. Local artisans, such as Khadija Assales, a.k.a. KAJ, turn poisonous fins into stunning earrings, pendants and more.
We look forward to a successful lionfish spear fishing contest and wish our contestants good luck. More importantly, we look forward to a day when Belizean waters are rid of this invasive species and native fish populations thrive!