Tyler Survance on Lil’ Big Fish caught the most lionfish (268) during the Fifth Annual Green Turtle Cay Lion Fish Derby that took place on June 22. Spear Bender, captained by Dale Sawyer came in second place with 267, a close finish with only one less fish.
Altogether, 1,204 fish were caught, a significantly higher number than the previous year.
This year over $7,000.00 in prize money was given out to the winners, with prizes for the most number of fish caught, the largest fish as well as the smallest. Among other prizes, there was also one awarded to the team who caught some of the fifteen fish that had been previously tagged.
Fifteen hundred dollars went to the winner for the most fish captured. The second place winner received $1,000.00 and $500.00 went to the third place holder. $500.00 as well as the Chris Burdett floating trophy were given out to Dale Sawyer for catching the largest fish (331mm) and the same amount went to Tyler Survance for catching the smallest fish.
Larry Lowe, captain of the Bolo Boys, placed third in the largest fish category (298mm) and second in the smallest fish category (71mm).
Sixteen boats went to sea early in the morning of June 22 to try to catch as many of the invasive predators as possible. The team captains had been briefed the previous evening about the rules of the derby and about the safety measures to follow when catching the fish. Their poisoned fins can inflict a painful injury to people coming in contact with it.
The participants were to return no later than 4:00pm, but some had already reached the Green Turtle Cay Club fish cleaning station much before then, perhaps because of the prevalent bad weather. Under a torrential rain the boats kept arriving and emptying their catch. After being numbered, weighed and recorded, the fish were then delivered to Eddy Bodie who, protected by thick leather gloves, splayed the fish. He then handed them to Daryl McIntosh who skinned and fileted them in order to prepare them for cooking.
Upon their arrival, the participants were greeted with gin and coconut water – two of the sponsors were Burns House and Gilbey’s Gin- while the number caught was recorded to determine the winners and to be entered into a data bank of information to be later analyzed by a REEF researcher.
REEF’s Lad Atkins, a special project coordinator of the event, was accompanied by Dr. Stephanie Green, with Oregon State University. Dr. Green explained that this is the second year of study aimed at assessing the impact of the derby on the local population of lion fish as well as the impact of the lionfish on the reef population. The two scientists conducted a survey of the lionfish population before the derby and will again assess that population for a few days after the derby.
According to the scientist, they observed a large reduction from last year in the number of fish.
The first Lion Fish Derby took place in 2009 on Green Turtle Cay. The event was founded in 2008 out of Key Largo by Bobbie Lindsay in partnership with REEF.
Since then, Lion Fish Derbies were held yearly in Marsh Harbour, as well as on other islands of the Caribbean and in Palm Beach County. Bobbie Lindsay and Mr. Atkins, the organizers of the derby, actively took part in Palm Beach in raising money for the prizes. Other sponsors of the event were the Ministry of Tourism, the Green Turtle Club and Brendal’s Diving.
The prizes and trophies were distributed during an award ceremony banquet that took place at the Green Turtle Club during the evening of June 22. Needless to say, lionfish was on the menu.