Imports undermining local lionfish attack

| 08/05/2017 | 27 Comments

(CNS): A local non-profit organisation that has been helping in the fight to remove lionfish from Cayman’s reefs over the last six years is urging the National Conservation Council to recommend a ban on restaurants importing the meat because, they say, it is counter productive. Cayman United Lionfish League (CULL) has hosted twenty-two lionfish-catching tournaments, in which thousands of the prolific invasive fish have been culled.

This has helped create a demand for the fish in restaurants, but now some have taken to bringing in the fish from elsewhere, depressing the price.

Cayman 27’s Joe Avary, who is a member of CULL, said the organisation has worked to create awareness of the lionfish invasion, encourage responsible culling practices and dispel misconceptions. He is now asking that Cayman, like other countries plagued by the extremely destructive fish, prohibit the import because this will hinder rather than help the local fight.

“The importation of lionfish is counterproductive to the goal of removing them from Cayman’s own reefs,” Avary stated in a letter to the NCC. “When restaurants import lionfish from other jurisdictions, it artificially depresses the market price… Right now, restaurants pay anywhere from $4-$6 per pound for locally culled fish.”

CULL believes that if the Cayman Islands enacts an import ban, the market price for locally caught lionfish would rise. Avary said that with an increase in the price, more divers and snorkellers would be encouraged to undertake the risks inherent in hunting these invasive pests. The major goal of CULL is a commitment to “eat them to beat them”.

Local marine conservation experts have been behind the goal to create the demand to east the fish. The Department of Environment has said on a number of occasions that overfishing works. Local reef fish have been significantly diminished over the years from fishing and so the aim has been to do the same with the lionfish.

Avary said that importation bans have been successfully enacted in the United States and other countries to tackle the invasion and help protect their reefs. Cayman now needs a similar ban, otherwise the battle to keep the numbers down to protect the diversity of local marine could be lost.

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Category: Marine Environment, Science & Nature

Comments (27)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    How about this idea.. Instead of keeping it on the menu, merely put it on as a special for when you have it on hand.

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  2. Anonymous says:

    We need to be able to have more spears. It is not acceptable that the dive companies are the only place you can get them, and that you have to go on dives on their boats to get them. Not only is it exclusionary, because not everyone wants or can afford to go on dive boats all the time. It is also not an effective culling strategy because you are limited in depth and location because the site is chosen based on the other divers.

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  3. Anonymous says:

    Agree with the earlier poster. I’ve been on the DoE’s “waiting list” for a spear for almost 4 years. I know of at least 3 people who got one the original 500 spears who have left island and took their spears with them!!! There must only be around 300 spears actually in operation.

    Many people would love to go out there and cull but nets are not feasible.

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  4. Jeff says:

    Restaurants have to have a supply to keep lionfish on the menu – and we cullers cannot provide enough fish. So allow imports but put a $2 – $3 tax on each pound: that will still allow local catches to be attractive.

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    • Anonymous says:

      We have a lionfish invasion right here. We should be finding ways to enable lionfish culling here, sufficient to at least meet demand/effectively reduce the number of lionfish in the area, just as we are supposedly doing with iguanas. But even if supply on-island is sufficient, just like everyone else, the restaurants will still import if it works out cheaper than buying local.

      And 2+2=4. 🙂

  5. Anonymous says:

    i hear they good..but cant get across the fact of eating a poisonous fish??

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  6. Whatcha Say says:

    Oh the humanity! Restaurants seek only the lowest price for the maximum markup. Turning $2 in ingredients into a $15 meal is the goal. If they have the alternative to pay $4-$6 for the same ingredients, which would you think they would choose? Import restrictions are the only solution to “eat them to beat them!”

    At some point, there must be the willingness to assist in a worthwhile effort to eradicate or at least significantly reduce the population of these invaders. Otherwise, the viability of the local fisheries will continue to be severely impacted. This will increase the need to import foodstuffs and further damage the local economy, on which many depend for making a living at fishing. Penny wise or pound foolish – which is it to be?

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  7. Anonymous says:

    No need for a ban, simply raise the duty that must be paid to import this type of fish. Say 35% should do the trick. Then if/when the local supply dies out the duty can be simply dropped back in line with regular costs.

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  8. Anonymous says:

    Local restaurants are already playing a big voluntary role in convincing reluctant diners of the palatability of lionfish. They are on the front lines of raising awareness to the invasive species with visitors. Forcing them to fillet 50 x 2 inch “goldfish” is not going to have the correct commercial or social effect. We are better off de-barbing and grinding our little ones into fish meal and giving it to chickens/pig farm, or back to the groupers and natural predators.

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  9. Anonymous says:

    How about the DoE issues the culling certification cards and spears to the people who sat through their training seminar 6+ years ago!!! I want to help but I’m not putting my self at risk of injury trying to catch them with BUTTERFLY NETS as was suggested. I know many people who are in the same situation! It seems to me that only a select few dive masters are currently trusted with spears for some unknown reason. The problem with this is, the dive masters only clean up the dive sites they visit, so the rest of the reef is infested with lionfish!

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    • Anonymous says:

      Untrue. Check your facts. Red Sail provides spears on their culls for those that are certified to use them. I have several of my own and loan them out freely
      You will hardly get one with a butterfly net. Never heard of such. And not recommended.

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      • Anonymous says:

        Where in my comment did I mention redsail you muppet? DoE need to get their act together if they want people to help.

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        • Anonymous says:

          Hey! Simmer down now. No need for name calling. From what I read, the person was just giving you information that you could go with Red Sail and have use of a spear. I thought it was a good suggestion myself.
          Go get a cuppa!

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      • Anonymous says:

        I also have an email from a DoE employee recommending butterfly nets. So check your facts.

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      • Anonymous says:

        And there is the problem! Why do you have several spears when the rest of us can’t get one!? How many can you use at one time! DoE is a joke!

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      • Anonymous says:

        You must be one of the select few referred to… How and why do you have “several”?

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