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If you’ve been diving in the Caribbean, Florida, or Bahamas lately you’re aware of a visitor from another ocean – the Pacific Lionfish. Since the early 1990s, Pacific Lionfish have been populating the reefs of Florida and the Caribbean and causing big problems. It is believed that the invasion started from released specimens from fish tanks potentially during the devastation of hurricane Andrew. Over the next years small groups of these animals began reproducing and by 1999 began traveling in the currents up the east coast of the US and by 2004 began working their way south into the Bahamas. To date Pacific lionfish can be found throughout almost the entire Caribbean and DNA can trace their origin back to 6-10 individuals!
These invasive lionfish have an insatiable appetite and reproduce at incredible rates. Lionfish will eat everything from juvenile grunts, parrotfish, trumpetfish, snappers, grouper, and even lobsters and shrimp. These are very valuable species to the balance of the ecosystem as well as to the fishing economy. It is estimated that lionfish reproduce at an alarming rate of 10s of thousands of eggs every 3-4 days in the Caribbean. It is thought that one female can produce over 2 million viable offspring in one year! The reproductive rate explains why their population grew so exponentially from 1992 to present day, and coupled with their appetite is a recipe for disaster for the reefs of the Caribbean.
On Juliet, we make a habit of ridding the oceans of this disastrous fish – and feasting on it afterwards! We have custom spears and Zookeepers that easily clip on to your dive gear, have a wide one-way opening to load up with fish, and is made of hard PVC plastic to protect you from the sharp spines. Try your hand at lionfish wrangling and back on deck we’ll show you how to safely handle and filet this surprisingly delicious fish. If you’re lucky enough, you might be able to try the whole array of Lionfish delicacies served on board Juliet, including Lionfish ceviche, Lionfish sashimi, seared Lionfish, and Lionfish tacos. Yum!
And if you slayed your own lionfish, you are eligible to purchase one of our exclusive new Lionfish T-shirts, only available on board and only available if you yourself killed a lionfish!
We typically schedule a Lionfish Hunting trip in October where you can hunt to your heart’s content. We’ll do dives on some of the lesser-dove sites like Look-out point, and drift some of the deeper sloping wall dives that the lionfish tend to love. Look forward to being able to see the entirety of the Tuna Alley system and Victory Reef, and if the weather cooperates we’ll head south for some clean up on the Orange Cay dives. We provide the spears and zookeepers or you are welcome to bring your own (just remember, no trigger mechanism allowed). Whether you are already a lionfish hunting expert or want to learn how to get into it, all experience levels are welcome. You just have to love eating them as well. Our chef will be cooking up your catch in all sorts of meals – Fish tacos, ceviche, and even Lionfish sushi! Contact us for more details.
For more information on the Lionfish invasion, visit the links below, or book a trip on Juliet and be sure to sit in on our Lionfish marine biology presentation!