Threat: A lionfish is speared while eating its prey. The invasive species are posing a threat to our juvenile fish. *Photo by Linda Turrentine
Threat: A lionfish is speared while eating its prey. The invasive species are posing a threat to our juvenile fish. *Photo by Linda Turrentine

FRIDAY, JULY 13: Eco-warriors will be grabbing their nets and their spears and heading for the ocean this month to take part in the second annual Eat ‘Em to Beat ‘Em Lionfish Tournament.

The community is invited to come and support the event, which hopes to raise awareness of what has been described as one of the biggest environmental threats to our ocean species —invasive lionfish.

Lionfish have no natural predators in Bermuda’s waters have a voracious appetite for our juvenile fish and, in turn, our reef systems are at risk.

Matt Strong heads up the environmental charity Groundswell that is organizing the tournament, taking place at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences on July 21.

He told the Bermuda Sun: “Everyday we are getting more and more reports of lionfish on our reefs. They are in great numbers on our deeper reef and now they are showing up inshore in the fish nursery grounds and relentlessly eating our juvenile fish. Lionfish are eating important commercial species but even more importantly, they could potentially decimate the herbivorous fish populations such as parrotfish. This is a huge problem as the herbivores keep the algae in check. Without them, the algae outcompetes the corals and the reef, as we know it, dies. Scientists believe this lionfish invasion stands to be the worst marine invasion in history.”

Strong believes that a solution to the problem would be to incorporate lionfish into local menus and have it targeted by commercial and recreational fishermen.

“We can essentially eat them to reduce their numbers. It’s worked before — we ate the Nassau grouper (Hamlet) in such large numbers that they no longer exist in Bermuda’s waters. Every time you are at a restaurant, grocery store or buying fish from your roadside fisherman ask for lionfish. If we build up enough demand, the fishermen will target them.”

There will be a chance to sample lionfish at the tournament which has been prepared by expert chef Chirs Malpas.

The tournament begins at sunrise and the weigh in and prize giving takes place at BIOS at 3pm. All are welcome to attend at 2:30pm to see how lionfish are handled and prepared. There will be cocktails and entertainment provided by Gosling’s after the weigh in.

• Tournament application forms are available online at www.reefspect.com and should be dropped off at Marine Locker with the entry fee.