Lionfish are a problem throughout the Caribbean, however the problem has been effectively controlled in the Cayman Islands by introducing organised culls to reduce the lionfish population.
Native to the Indo-Pacific region, it’s believed that an aquarium owner released only eight captive lionfish off the coast of Florida in 1985
While lionfish are strikingly beautiful creatures with their distinctive stripes and spines, they are also an eco-disaster to the Caribbean and its dive industry. They are voracious predators that devour small and juvenile fish and crustaceans in large quantities, as well as competing with native species for space and other food. This, coupled with the fact that they can reach reproductive maturity at less than one-year old and can then lay 30,000 eggs every four days, makes them a major problem in Cayman waters.
Since they are not native to Caribbean waters, they have no known predators which means their population will only multiply. The Cayman community is doing its bit by culling the lionfish in order to combat their growing population and save the dive industry. Be aware that lionfish are extremely venomous. Do not attempt to catch one without proper Department of Environment (DoE) training and a licence. Divers, snorkelers, and fishermen can obtain licences from the DoE to remove lionfish from the sea. The DoE and a couple of dive operators (Ambassador Divers, Divetech and Ocean Frontiers) run a 90-minute licensing course that is open to everyone. For more information call visit www.doe.ky/marine/lionfish-invasive.
When served in local restaurants, however, lionfish is completely safe. A surprising fact is that lionfish is delicious. A white fish, they are mild and flaky when cooked. If you don’t want to catch them yourself, they appear on the menu at Tukka and Eagle Rays Bar & Grill in the East End, Guy Harvey’s in George Town and VIVO in West Bay. This is one reef fish we can eat with a clean conscience!