While fishermen at fish markets depend on their daily catch to make a living, others were banking big on the lionfish. Well, that’s all over, because the Fisheries Department says it is discontinuing the $50 reward for the capture of the fish. And what’s behind this? Firstly, Fisheries says that they now have over 100 samples they need for research. Secondly, since its first sighting in December of 2008, the lionfish population has increased greatly and now spans from north to south in Belizean waters. The invasive fish species was released off the coast of Florida in the 1990s and has affected reef ecosystems in many Caribbean countries. It eats just about anything and is known to have a poisonous dorsal spine. The lionfish, if not contained, threatens the commercial export species on which it feeds. This morning, 8 young Lionfish between 3 to 5 inches in size were handed over to the Department. Marine Protected Areas Coordinator, Isaias Majil says, they plan to devise a response mechanism to monitor the lionfish.
Isaias Majil, Marine Protected Areas Coord, Fisheries Dept
“We wanted to see what the threat was, the distribution, the numbers, the sizes of these lionfish. Since we don’t have much information in the country, the only way we thought the fishermen and the tour operators would have assisted us was if we put a reward on the lionfish. At the beginning, we were not receiving very high numbers, but lately in May, June and July, they were coming in great numbers. And so we have over 100 specimens now. The specimens collected are all juveniles, mostly juveniles, and that is an indication that they are not reproducing as yet in our waters. The majority of them are being found in the Turneffe Atoll. We have most of our specimens from there. However, we do have specimens all the way from Punta Gorda and all the way to Bacalar Chico up north. But another big concentration of lionfish is being found around Ambergris Caye.”
“Is the lionfish edible?”
“The lionfish based a lot on our response and awareness that our colleagues from the Bahamas are sharing, they recently had a lionfish capturing tournament and in one day they captured 1,408. What they did is the Fisheries Department trains the fishermen how to clean the fish, fillet it and even cook it.”
Majil says that despite its poisonous spines, the flesh of the lionfish is edible and is said to taste like grouper or snapper.