Culebra Puerto Rico Report

I just got back from a month and a half long visit to Culebra PR. One of goals was to do research on the lionfish problem there. Here is what I found. The scuba divers in the area reported that there were lionfish everywhere in 60 ft of water. In fact one local dive charter is starting to bring in lionfish to the dinghy dock restaurant to serve on their menu (good news). I conducted my own research all around the island by putting on my own mask and snorkel and was surprised to find only five lionfish, three juvenile and two adult. I dove from the shoreline to 500 yards out, from three feet of water to fifty feet and found NOTHING. There was plenty of small fish on the reefs to support a decent population of lionfish yet they were nowhere to be found. I can only attribute this to the presence of CORNET FISH. Cornet fish were everywhere. It is the only fish that Puerto Ricans do not hunt therefore they are thriving. Lionfish don't have a chance with these guys around. I imagine that they hunt the juvenile lionfish because their mouths are pretty small. They seem pretty aggressive hunters. I don't know much about them but perhaps they hold the key to bringing the lionfish problem under control. Somebody please look into this.



New Caribbean Report

Hola fellow lion fish hunters, We are a dive shop on the northern coast of the Dominican Republic. The lion fish have really tried to take over here. Our fellow dive shops have been able to kill many, but until the resident Dominicans choose to eat them, it will be for naught. Look for us at superiordivesosua.com. There is a facebook link there. Here is a photo that we took 5 days ago. 33 lion fish on 1 dive, 3 divers. Chuck Ceccarelli Superior Dive Sosua


Grand Cayman Lionfish Safari


Media Contact:
Jackie Sayet, Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink

786-282-8797, Jackie@michaelsgenuine.com

Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink and Ambassador Divers Launch Genuine Lionfish Safari Package

Keep Grand Cayman’s Waters Safe from Invasive Fish – and Eat Dinner, Too.

Grand Cayman, CI – July 11, 2011 – Hungry for adventure? There’s a delicious solution to combat lionfish - an invasive fish species threatening the marine ecosystem off Grand Cayman’s shores: Eat them! Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink in Camana Bay and Ambassador Divers have exclusively partnered on a new Lionfish Safari package offering parties of up to six guests at a time the opportunity to join professional Divemasters and instructors in the hunt to spearfish lionfish on the open water. Divers will "spot" lionfish over the course of two dives, while staff members spear and collect them. Upon returning from the outing, the freshly-caught lionfish will be cleaned and delivered to executive chef Thomas Tennant at the restaurant, where the group will meet later that evening to feast on the morning’s catch – all the while stemming the proliferation of this voracious predator.

“Lionfish Safari is a great opportunity for diners to help save the reefs and enjoy a delicious, spontaneous meal,” says executive chef Thomas Tennant. “At the same time, they get to see – and be – the very source of the main ingredient.”

In the Caribbean, Indo Pacific Red Lionfish have no natural predators; they are skilled at out-competing the native species like the Nassau grouper and are eating an unsustainable amount of juvenile reef fish. A single adult female can lay as many as 30,000 eggs every four days. Native to the tropical waters of the Pacific Ocean, the fish is said to have been accidentally released in the Carolinas and for the past several years has been invading the waters off the Florida Keys and Cayman Islands. Since 2008, the Cayman Islands have been fighting these glutinous eaters as they prey on the fish that maintain the health of the Islands’ reefs.

“Stings from the spines of the red lionfish’s dorsal fin are rarely fatal, but can be uncomfortable and cause nausea so they must be handled by licensed fishermen,” explains Jason Washington of Ambassador Divers. “The good news is that it is completely safe to consume once the venomous spines are carefully removed. The Lionfish Safari will help keep the population under control to preserve the health and beauty of the reefs, all the while providing fun and adventure.”

For two days before the much anticipated Taste of Cayman culinary event this past January, more than 100 divers assembled by Washington, in partnership with the Department of the Environment, to remove what amounted to 300 pounds of lionfish meat. Using the catch the main ingredient for his event tasting station, chef Tennant prepared Lionfish Escabeche, Cayman-style, with roasted tomato, Worcestershire, pickled vegetables, avocado, extra virgin olive oil, scallion, and cilantro.

In recognition of its efforts, Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink Grand Cayman received a Certificate for Environmental Conservation Efforts from the Taste of Cayman Committee. Since then, Tennant and Washington have posted WANTED notices encouraging divers to catch the lionfish and deliver it to the restaurant for a ransom.

“I was thrilled when Jason approached us with the safari idea, because we’ve had great feedback from our customers since Taste, as I try new lionfish preparations,” explains Tennant. “I’m excited to have a new fish to work with that also helps preserve the local environment. We’re always looking for ways to get more product in-house, so when we can connect with customers and educate them in a fun and engaging way, too, it’s a win, win.”

The excursion can be booked any day of the week excluding Fridays by calling Ambassador Divers at 345.949-4530 or 345.916.1064. Guests will be picked up from their hotel at 7:45 a.m., returning to the dock at noon. Price is US $1,200 for up to 6 people, which includes a privately-chartered boat, tanks, all dive gear, and a multi-course meal that same evening at Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink with a champagne toast.

Guests will discover their custom dinner menu upon arrival. From a chef’s point of view, lionfish is a versatile and easy fish to work with, friendly to many styles of preparation. Like snapper, it has a nice, thin skin, which when left on, pan-fries and sears crisp; remove the skin and toss in tempura batter for a light deep fry or in citrus juice for ceviche. Fried and pickled in vinegar for escabeche is very good, too – even simply seasoned with salt, pepper and olive oil in the restaurant’s wood-burning oven.

About Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink

James Beard Award-winning chef/owner Michael Schwartz shares his passion for where food comes from at Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink in Miami and Grand Cayman. This neighborhood bistro with a refreshing combination of laid-back atmosphere and seriously good food is the ultimate showcase for the type of cuisine that Schwartz does best – homemade, unpretentious, delectable, with an emphasis on great local ingredients. Menus change daily because they start with what’s in season and arriving on the doorstep from local farmers, fishermen, and ranchers. From there, it’s about letting the ingredients speak for themselves when they hit the table. The island restaurant is located at 47 Forum Lane, Suite 4103, Canella Court at Camana Bay and is open for lunch and dinner daily. Happy Hour features drink specials, Monday through Friday from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Call 345.640.6433 to book a reservation. Find the restaurant online at www.michaelsgenuine.com, @MGFD_GCM on Twitter and on Facebook.

About Ambassador Divers

Ambassador Divers was founded in 1992 at the Ambassador Inn in South Sound. The company was purchased by Jason Washington of Arkansas, USA and Richie Bird of Liverpool, England in the year 2000. These two dive enthusiasts realized their dream of a dive operation focused on small groups and personalized service. After Hurricane Ivan in 2004, the Ambassador Inn did not survive however the dive operation is still going strong! In 2008 Ambassador Divers moved to their current location at the Comfort Suites conveniently located right next door the Marriot on Seven Mile Beach. For more information visit www.ambassadordivers.com or call 345.949-4530 or 345.916.1064


North Carolina Update

I am a Lionfish hunter as well here in North Carolina. Unfortunately we have to go about 25 miles out and 120’ – 140’ deep to get to them. I have great system so I can get 25 to 40 fish in two 15 minute dives (well as long as the Sharks stay away).

BTW My recipe: I like to put a large shrimp followed by a chunk of Lionfish on a skewer and dip it in a Beer Batter or Pancake Batter then roll it Coconut. Refrigerate for 30 min then deep fry. For the dipping sauce us 1 cup Orange or Mango marmalade with 1 tbl of a Caribbean Hot Sauce.

Josh Burns

Bahamas Update

Went snorkeling today in Bottom Harbour, N Eleuthera. There are several small patch reefs between Bottom Harbour Club and Cistern Cay a few hundred feet from shore. Everyone, no matter how small had at least 1 lionfish and several single rock reefs had 3 of them. We saw in total 12 to 15 size varied from very small 3inch to about 8 inch.
I know you can't use spear guns in the Bahamas, but can you use them to shot lionfish?
Thanks for your blog,
Mike Harris


letter from NOAA's Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary

Dear Lionfish Hunter,
Thank you for raising awareness about the issue of invasive lionfish! I work for NOAA's Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary where we have been working closely with the dive community since before the first lionfish was captured in the Keys in Jan 2009. With our local partners we have trained almost 300 divers in safe handling and collection techniques, and continue to train individuals and support diver-based control efforts.

I thought you, and possibly your blog readers, might be interested in the second annual Florida Keys lionfish tournaments which are kicking off in three weeks. Last year the inaugural series of three round-ups captured more than 660 lionfish — the largest of which was ~12" and the smallest ~5cm. Your blog post from Nov 2010 links to the Wall Street Journal article on tournaments last year.

I would greatly appreciate any help you could provide in spreading the word about these tournaments.

The press release on the 2011 derbies may be found online at http://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/news/press/2011/pr041911.html
Photos from last year's Key West derby may be downloaded from http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/news/weeklynews/nov10/lionfish-hunt.html
Video from last year's Key West derby may be downloaded from http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/news/weeklynews/apr11/2011lionfishhunt.html

Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) invite divers to participate in the Second Annual Florida Keys Lionfish Derby Series.

May 14, 2011: Fiesta Key Resort, Long Key, FL
August 20, 2011: Coconuts Restaurant, Key Largo, FL
November 5, 2011: Hurricane Hole Marina and Restaurant, Key West, FL

For more information, or to register online, visit http://www.reef.org/lionfish/derbies. Registration for teams of up to four divers is $120, and gets you a pair of puncture resistant gloves or a clear dry bag, and two awards banquet tickets.

Prizes for the top three teams in each category:

Most lionfish: $1,000 cash, $500 cash, $250 Divers Direct Gift Certificate
Biggest lionfish: $500 cash, $200 cash, $100 Divers Direct Gift Certificate
Smallest lionfish: $500 cash, $200 cash, $100 Divers Direct Gift Certificate

All lionfish must be captured from the waters of the sanctuary on the day of the derby. Mandatory captains’ meeting held the evening prior to each derby will feature a briefing on safe capture and handle techniques. The derby will conclude with a lionfish tasting and awards banquet. View derby rules online athttp://www.reef.org/reef_files/2011FLKeysDerbyRules.pdf

Local hotels and boat rental companies are offering discounts to lionfish derby participants. For discounts for the May 14 derby, visithttp://www.reef.org/lionfish/derbies/MiddleKeysInfo

Safe diving and thanks again for bringing attention to this invasive fish,

--  ----------------------------------------------- Karrie Carnes Communications Coordinator Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (NOAA) 305-809-4700 x236 (w) 305-304-0179 (c) 305-293-5011 (f) www.floridakeys.noaa.gov www.facebook.com/floridakeysnoaagov