May Day was a great day for lionfish hunters in the Southern Grenadines, as seven teams from cleared 132 pounds of lionfish, invasive predators, from local waters during the 3rd Annual Hairoun Beer Mayreau Regatta Lionfish Derby,
Team Kevisha from Union Island earned first prize for the most heads by bringing in 69 lionfish. Grenadines Dive, also from Union, took the second proize with 50 heads, and Mayreau’s I Survive got 27 lionfish.
“Our youngest participant, Mayreau resident Terry Forde of Lionfish Hunter, got two lionfish, so he’s off to a great start,” said Nancy Saul-Demers of the Mayreau Regatta and Sporting Committee.
Team Kevisha got the largest lionfish. “At a whopping 376 mm, that’s roughly 14 5/8 inches of eating machine that can no longer voraciously destroy our native fish,” said Saul-Demers.
Team Little One from Union speared a 356 mm long lionfish, just a shade larger than the 355 mm one (13 ¾”) Mayreau’s I Survive brought in.
Two divers from Grenadines Dive teamed up to capture the smallest lionfish of the derby. It was a mere 78 mm long (less than 3 inches).
The second smallest was brought in by the Mayreau men on I Survive, and Team Kevisha took 3rd place with their 151 mm (5 3/4”) lionfish.
“All around this was a very competitive lionfish derby,” Saul-Demers said. “In addition to lots of healthy team rivalry, we also see plenty of camaraderie. These men know they’re all doing good for our fishery and tourism industries so they support one another. We’re also very grateful to the United Nations Global Environment Facility’s Small Grants Program that is funding this year’s derby and allowed us to greatly improve it over last year. We all truly appreciate the support we’ve received from the Reef Environmental Education Foundation whose expertise enabled us to make some really good changes to ensure a safe derby this year.”
Saul-Demers said only 40 lionfish were brought in during the 2ndAnnual Lionfish Derby last year.
“So this year, with 212 caught, that’s more than five times as many. And today the men were fishing in the same waters as were scoured during the 1st Annual Union Island Derby on April 11 when 155 lionfish were culled.
“Through our own experience, we know that derbies are an effective way to battle the lionfish invasion. They also give us great opportunities to chat with spectators about lionfish and often give them their first chance to eat this very tasty treat.”
The lionfish derby was one of the first events in the 2014 Hairoun Beer Mayreau Regatta. The morning also included a traditional fishing competition and a very popular kite-flying contest.
The afternoon featured Maypole dancing and the return of all fishing boats with their catches that were either cooked up or sold to spectators.