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March 2010    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 36, No. 3   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Join The Hunt For Lionfish

from the March, 2010 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

There is one new push by Caribbean dive operators that we heartily endorse: lionfish hunting. Many dive outfits are enlisting their customers to help them track down the nonnative reef destroyers.

Lionfish, accidentally dumped into Miami’s waters back in 1992, are now abundant along the southeastern Atlantic coast, Bahamas and Caymans. Salomon Singer (Panama City, Panama) went diving in January with Stuart’s Cove Dive Bahamas and told us, “I don’t recall seeing less than three on each dive and on at least one dive, I saw well over ten.” Two other readers tell us they saw them during January dives in Curacao. The distance between Miami and Curacao is 1,190 miles, so lionfish have traveled an average of 66 miles every year southward – and there’s no stopping them. While lionfish “wranglers” may keep them out of marine parks, the majority of islands’ coastlines are not dived so there’s no way to round up all lionfish.

Still, you can join up with dive operators that are sponsoring dive trips to nab the critters. Through June 15, Blue Magic Scuba in Cozumel is sponsoring a lionfish tournament and awarding prizes for accomplishments like the most killed and the largest. You spot the lionfish, the divemaster catches it. The more lionfish caught, the more chances you have to win prizes like free diving, hotel accommodations and gear. (

DiveTech on Grand Cayman is running a boat trip every Saturday afternoon through the end of March. Divers work in teams of two, using plastic nets, gloves and sticks to capture the fish. DiveTech has caught 250 lionfish since it started the hunts last year. The two-tank boat trip costs US$24; call 888-946-5656 or e-mail for details.

On Bonaire, 74 lionfish have been captured so far, and many females were carrying eggs, a bad sign. Captain Don’s Habitat will host its first “Lionfish Wrangler Week” on March 6-13, letting divers earn money every time they spot a lionfish that is later captured by a marine park official during that week. (

Even if you don’t go on an official hunt, you can still help authorities track them down. Officials on islands like Bonaire and St. Croix are asking divers to take colored plastic ribbons to mark the fishes’ location during dives. Or just take photos of the fish on your dives and tell the dive resort or shop where you saw them. To help the islands’ lionfish wranglers avoid the venomous spines, you can buy them lionfish-collecting gear, sold by the nonprofit REEF for a pricey $138 (at, click on “Store” and then “Field Supplies”), and donate them on your next dive trip.

REEF and island officials request that only wranglers they trained capture the lionfish. So don’t grab one, and certainly don’t club it to death. If it happens to be a female, you risk it releasing hundreds of eggs, which will --without natural predators -- grow up to become more of a problem.

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