This June, Friends of the Environment hosted the 8th Annual Green Turtle Cay Lionfish Derby in partnership with The Green Turtle Club and Brendal’s Dive Center. Now marked as the world’s longest running lionfish derby, this event was started by Green Turtle second home owner and Palm Beach resident, Bobbie Lindsay, in response to growing concerns about the potential impacts of lionfish on native fish populations.
While native to the Pacific Ocean, lionfish have successfully invaded the Atlantic. What makes a fish successful at being an invader? They are able to live in many different habitat types, can survive various environmental conditions (for example, brackish water), and reproduce often and abundantly. In addition to that, lionfish are not recognized as a food source by many native predatory fish, nor are they themselves always recognized as a predator. In this way, lionfish are able to easily catch a meal without having to worry too much about being eaten themselves. Lionfish are able to consume fish up to two-thirds their own body length, and can also consume many smaller fish in a short period of time.
Local and visiting fishermen compete in the derby to help reduce the impact of lionfish on our local fish populations. Those who catch the most fish, or the largest or smallest specimen, are rewarded with a bounty for their efforts. This year, five teams competed: Bolo Boys, Spear Bender, White Roach, Lil Big Fish, and All Play.
A total of 1,100 lionfish were harvested.
The team with the biggest catch was Spearbender with 433 fish; they also had the largest lionfish at 34cm. The smallest lionfish was caught in a hand net by the Bolo Boys… it was 4.9cm including the tail (just under 2 inches).
Several teams brought live lionfish in to the docks in buckets so the crowd of observers had a chance to see them up close.
The Green Turtle Cay Lionfish Derby is not just about fishing, it’s also a chance for participants to socialize and share stories of “the one that got away”.
A sunset cruise sponsored by Chris Burdett left the dock after the captain’s meeting, and many people hopped on board to enjoy refreshments, music, and a fun trip along the shores of Green Turtle Cay. As boats returned with their catch the next day, the team from Brendal’s Dive Center was on hand to offer rum punch in celebration of the day’s success.
Afterwards, participants and onlookers gathered at the Green Turtle Club for the awards ceremony, lionfish tasting, buffet dinner and music by New Entry Band. Prizes were sponsored by Brendal’s Dive Center, The Abaco Tourist Office, Chris Burdett, and Friends of the Environment, as well as numerous individual donations.
This event would not have been possible without the support and involvement of some key businesses and individuals. Our thanks to: The Green Turtle Club Resort and Marina, Sarah Ann Showell, Brendal’s Dive Center, Bobbie Lindsay, Chris Burdett, The Abaco Tourist Office, The Bahamas Department of Marine Resources, Marsh Harbour Exporters and Importers, Elisabeth Frasch, Ryley Parent, James Boyce, Jim Richard, Shane Gross Photography, Lad Akins and REEF, and all the derby registrants and participants.