Central Abaco Lionfish Derby: A hopeful indicator of lionfish fight?

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

Smallest lionfish caught during the recent Central Abaco Lionfish Derby. PHOTO CREDIT: Friends of the Environment.

By Friends of the Environment

The third annual Central Abaco Lionfish Derby was successful and provided interesting numbers as compared to last year’s derby. With the assistance of our sponsors, participants and volunteers we were able to remove a total of 667 lionfish from the Sea of Abaco as compared to 2,957 fish last year.

The difference in numbers hopefully reflects the impact that these derbies are having on local lionfish populations. The winning boat, “Kiki”, consisted of four local fishermen who participated and won third place in last year’s derby. Although they brought in a total of 406 lionfish to win this year, they stated that they had to go to triple the amount of fishing grounds to capture less lionfish than they did last year. This suggests that there has been a significant reduction in the local population.

In an effort to make a larger impact throughout the year, Marsh Harbour Exporters and Importers (The Fish House) are contributing two additional cash prizes of $1,000 and $500 for the fisherman who brings in the highest number of lionfish throughout the year. Fisherman can drop their catch off at The Fish House during business hours where their catch will be counted and recorded. The winners will be awarded their cash prizes at next year’s lionfish derby. There will also be an all year derby held in Green Turtle Cay with a first place prize of $1,000. Beginning in August, fishermen in the north can take their catch to Larry Lowe at Abaco Seafood the first Monday of every month, between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.

Fishermen, you can help the environment by doing something you love! Catch lionfish!

To learn more about invasive lionfish, visit: To learn more about Friends of the Environment, visit or call (242) 367-2721.

National Lionfish Response Plan – Take Survey if You Have Seen Lionfish

Friday, January 20th, 2012

The Commonwealth of The Bahamas faces significant challenges in the management and protection of marine resources over the 1,200 kilometer-long archipelago. Stressors on the marine environment include over-fishing, marine and terrestrial sources of pollution, climate change and invasive species. Invasive species are non-native species that become established in a new environment and proliferate and spread in ways that may noticeably impact native populations, species or entire ecosystems. Biological invasions are one of the leading threats to biodiversity worldwide. The recent introduction of the venomous Indo-Pacific lionfish (Pterois volitans) to the western Atlantic Ocean is an ongoing exotic species range expansion with unknown consequences for both the ecology of coastal systems and tropical Atlantic fisheries.

The College of The Bahamas Marine and Environmental Studies Institute (COB-MESI) worked in collaboration with the Department of Marine Resources is launching a long-term National Lionfish Response Project (NLRP) from 2007 to July 2009. Now the University of Miami Coastal Ecology Laboratory has taken over responsiblity for lionfish dissections and the on-line questionnaire for the Department of Marine Resources.

The National Lionfish Response Plan entails a partnership between both local and regional government and non-governmental agencies. The NLRP focuses on: 1) ecological research, 2) invasion management and policy development, and 3) educational initiatives. This project will build a body of stakeholders that can contribute to the long-term strategic management plan for marine invaders in The Bahamas.

Initial invasion management and policy development for the NLRP includes the creation of an on-line lionfish sightings reporting system and distribution database. The primary objective of this on-line questionnaire is to therefore collate past, present and future sightings data on the occurrence and distribution of lionfish throughout the Bahamian archipelago by combining information from beach users as well as the local fishing and the recreational diving communities. The results from this questionnaire will aid in building an on-line information network on invasive species in The Bahamas.

You are encouraged to enter each lionfish sighting with unique dates and/or location. Here’s the link to the questionaire, which seeks information on the amount of focused fishing and lionfish removal going on in The Bahamas, as well as amount of lionfish actually sold or prepared for consumption.

“If you can’t beat them, eat them!” Bimini Big Game Club puts lionfish nuggets on the menu

Monday, October 17th, 2011

Lionfish on the reef. Photo credit: Bill Watts

Constantly looking for ways to better the environment, last month the Bimini Big Game Club added lionfish nuggets to the restaurant’s menu. And, now one month after serving more than 400 servings of the new menu item, the panko breaded nuggets are the talk of the island and a tasty solution to help rid nearby reefs of the aggressive and non-native predator.

“Our lionfish nuggets have become a huge seller, and though we don’t serve endangered species such as grouper,  we have absolutely no problem in turning lionfish into a menu item,” said Big Game General Manger Michael Weber.

Lionfish, a member of the venomous scorpionfish family, are native to the Indian Ocean and South Pacific and were first observed in Florida waters in 1985. Around 2000, they appeared in noticeable numbers in the Caribbean and Florida waters and have continued to aggressively breed.

How bad is the lionfish invasion? According to Dr. Mahmood Shivji, a professor at Nova Southeastern University and director of the Guy Harvey Research Institute:

“There are enormous concerns that lionfish will completely change and possibly destroy Atlantic coral reefs by overrunning them and shrinking their native biodiversity, and that the ongoing damage is severe and possibly irreparable. So far, there is no known quick-fix, and the problem is escalating exponentially.”

The US federal government’s chief fisheries management agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is in agreement, having developed an Eat Lionfish campaign.

“If you can’t beat them, eat them,” said Weber.

If you want to “eat them” too, here’s the lionfish nugget recipe on the Bimini Big Game Club’s menu. Bon appetit!


If you can't beat them (lionfish), eat them! Bimini Big Game Club adds lionfish nuggets to the menu.

Recipe for Panko Breaded Lionfish Nuggets ala Bimini Big Game Club

(Please carefully adhere to cleaning recommendations before preparing)

 Lionfish Nuggets

4 oz of Lionfish
1 cup liquid egg
Panko breadcrumb
Salt & Pepper
Cajun seasoning

In 3 separate bowls place your liquid egg, flour and breadcrumb. Cut Lionfish into small bite sized pieces and season with salt & Pepper & Cajun seasoning. Dip pieces into flour, shake off excess flour, and then dip into liquid egg and then into Panko breading. Once covered in the breading they are ready to take a long hot bath in some hot oil at 325 degrees until crispy golden brown.

Homemade Cilantro & Key Lime Tarter Sauce

Mayonnaise 1 cup
1 Gherkin’s or small pickle
2 TBS Key Lime juice
6 leaves of chopped cilantro
2 TBS of chopped capers

Make sure all above ingredients are FINELY chopped. Mix the above ingredients in a mixing bowl and fold ingredients together and add salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until time of service to remain fresh.

The Bimini Big Game Club, located in Alice Town on North Bimini, features a 51-room resort and a 75-slip marina capable of accommodating boats up to 145 feet in length. A full service fuel dock will be operational by Spring 2012. For more information, visit the Bimini Big Game Club website.



Catch ‘em, Clean ‘em, Eat ‘em

Sunday, July 10th, 2011

Students from Florida International University begin counting the number of fish brought in by one tournament participant.

Embracing the mantra Catch ‘em, Clean ‘em, Eat ‘em, sixteen boats set out of Marsh Harbour, Abaco, as early as sunrise the last Saturday of May for Friends of the Environment’s second annual Lionfish Derby in hopes of taking home the grand prize of $2,000 for the most lionfish snared. In addition to the lure of cash prizes, divers were also focused on rounding up the invasive species that has become a major threat to the Bahamas marine resources.

Prior to this year’s Central Abaco Lionfish Derby, none of the prior lionfish tournaments held throughout the Bahamas have brought in numbers as alarming as this year’s derby—which brought in 2,957 lionfish.

The first team arriving at the weigh-in station landed 55 lionfish. As boats continued to arrive, an air of friendly competition ensued. Volunteers from Florida International University helped count coolers full of lionfish with competitors looking on in anticipation while Marsh Harbour Exporters and Importers staff filleted the fish after counting and measurements.

Winning teams for the most lionfish caught were:

1st: Lil Big Fish with 622 fish — $2,000
2nd: Grouper Lips with 522 — $1,000
3rd: Kiki with 514 fish — $500

An awards ceremony at Marsh Harbour Marina and Jib Room followed the weigh-in. In addition to the award of the cash prizes for first, second and third place, some of the fillets were raffled off and also cooked as appetizers for attendees. Prize money was donated by Marsh Harbour Exporters and Importers and The Bahamas Marine Exporters Association. Additional prizes were also given for the smallest and largest lionfish, as well as the least amount caught.

Each female lionfish has the ability to produce up to one million eggs each year so hypothetically speaking, if fifty percent of the total catch from this derby were female, participants of the derby eliminated over 1 billion lionfish eggs from Abaco’s waters in one day!

Although this fish is here to stay, derbies such as this one are a way help maintain local populations and generate awareness about this voracious predator. Derbies can make an impact on local populations but everyone can help control the lionfish invasion: Catch ‘em, Clean ‘em, Eat ‘em!!

For more information on lionfish or Friends of the Environment, visit or telephone (242) 367-2721.

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Grand Bahama Dive Forecast – April 2011

Sunday, March 27th, 2011

The invasive lionfish is no doubt a beautiful creature. Photo credit: Eddy Raphael.

With the turn of the calendar to April, spring has arrived in full force on Grand Bahama. The ocean is warming up and the sun is shimmering over fantastic flat calm days at sea. The reef is revealing its brightest colors and all the creatures are moving with the season. Sea turtles are easier to spot, as they come in closer to shore ready for the nesting season, sharks are abundant and each dive site is buzzing with activities.

Among this month’s projects is to tackle the problem of the invasive lionfish. Diving on Grand Bahama will give you the opportunity to enjoy the active and abundant fish life and at the same time contribute to helping control the lionfish population in the waters surrounding Grand Bahama Island. Local crews are ready to share their knowledge with you on capturing, cleaning, cooking and consuming this incredible fish. Where it is normally a rule of “Look, don’t touch” you will be allowed to exercise some of your “fishing” instincts in a diverse manner.

Regular dives are still provided if hunting lionfish is not your dive of choice. Picks of the month are the deep sites off the south shore, such as Blair House, Plate Reef, Caves, and Morey Manor. Here the groupers gather at the cleaning stations as schools of Creole wrasse, Bermuda chubs, barracudas, jack and school masters move around the reef.

April is a grand time to visit and explore the underwater wonders of Grand Bahama Island.

Forecast By: Christina Zenato, Dive Department Supervisor
The International Underwater Explorer’s Society, Ltd. (UNEXSO)
Freeport, Grand Bahama, Bahamas
Phone: (242) 373-1244 or (800) 992-DIVE