Ministry of Tourism heightens lionfish awareness
Bahamas Information Services
Published: May 22, 2013
SEYMOUR’S, Long Island – The Ministry of Tourism and its partners have come together to further heighten awareness of the invasive and venomous lionfish in Bahamian waters.
One such avenue was the Lionfish Hunt II, a competition and cook-off between local fishermen and chefs, that was held on May 17 to 18 at Seymour’s Dock.
The lionfish was sighted in Bahamian waters following the passage of Hurricane Andrew in 1992. The Department of Marine Resources has classified the lionfish as an invasive alien species preying on commercially and ecologically important marine species.
And, the best way to manage the species is to eat it. Hence the two-day hunt and cook-off explored the hunting, handling, cleaning and eating of lionfish, which is proving to be quite the delicacy.
Approximately 270 fish were caught, the largest up to 16 inches. Organizer and fisherman Charles Knowles and Frederick Arnett, assistant fisheries officer at the Department of Marine Resources, donned impenetrable gloves and spearheaded the handling and cleaning of the catch, which was shared among the restaurants involved in the cook-off.
Chefs from Cape Santa Maria and Stella Maris Resort prepared the fish in a variety of dishes such as fish cakes garnished with local pineapples, and stir-fried lionfish in a tropical Thai curry sauce, also with fresh pineapples.
Samantha Fox of the Ministry of Tourism office on the island underscored the importance of educating residents and tourists about lionfish.
“The Ministry of Tourism has partnered with individuals in the community in their efforts to bring further awareness about the species,” she said.
“It (hunting) has also become a tourist attraction. When visitors come into Long Island divers take them out snorkeling and educate them about the species.”
Fox added that because of the abundance of the species, restaurant owners are being encouraged to add it to their menus. Entrepreneurs are also being urged to use parts of the fish for jewellery and other craft items once the venom is cured through cooking.
Another organizer of the lionfish hunt, Theresa Knowles of Bahamas Discovery Quest, said based on snorkeling expeditions there was noticeable growth in lionfish numbers.
For the first Lionfish hunt, Knowles said the committee worked hard for three months and was quite shocked at the response that people enjoyed lionfish meat. Subsequently, individuals were approached and handed information about lionfish and what it could do to local marine resources. The ultimate goal is to work with the Bahamas Marine Exporters Association in putting lionfish on the market, she said.
Arnett said the department has played a significant role in lionfish awareness and education since 2009 when it developed the National Lionfish Response Plan with The College of The Bahamas. Since then the department has signed on to a regional project, Mitigating the Threats of Invasive Alien Species in the Insular Caribbean (MTIASIC).
The Department of Marine Resources is the national executing agency for that project – a four-year program aimed at addressing the invasive species issue within the region.