The Placencia Lobster Fest will be held over this weekend, starting on Friday June 22 until Sunday June 24. The once-humble crayfish has risen in stature from a crusty bottom feeder to being celebrated with not one, but three entire weekends celebrated in its honor – not to mention a public facelift of its nom-de-plume - to “Lobster.” But it may soon have competition from the aptly named Lionfish, currently a pest and a threat to normal fish stocks all over Belize, but hopefully soon a staple on Belizean dinner tables, barbeque grills, and who knows, maybe even its own weekend festival as well - if promoters have their way.
Although lobster is still the headline feature of the fest, the Southern Environmental Association (S.E.A.) is promoting a Lionfish Tournament on Sunday. The contest is to help bring attention and hopefully some appetite to the problem of the Lionfish in Belizean waters, and will promote two end goals: To catch as many Lionfish as possible, and after proper handling and cleaning, to bring awareness of it as being quite edible, safe, and delicious to eat. As proof, visitors to S.E.A’s booth will be able to sample at least five different Lionfish dishes at their display table.
The Lionfish will be caught with spears, and scuba and free divers can participate. They must be landed whole, and although the practical idea is basically to catch every Lionfish in sight, prizes will be awarded for various categories, including the most Lionfish caught, the largest Lionfish, and to make sure all the bases are covered – the smallest Lionfish. A local dive center - Avadon Divers - was the proud winner in last year’s tournament for both the number of lionfish, and the largest/heaviest lionfish caught.
The deadline for entrance to the contest is Thursday, June 21, at 5 p.m. Notable is that all participants must sign a waiver release form before the tournament, and most interesting is that each boat must have on board a First Aid Kit, including “Vinegar and Hot Water.” The Lionfish apparently, have a reputation to keep.