Fosters Food Fair is Turning up the Heat on Lionfish
Fosters Food Fair heard about the invasive red lionfish problem and contacted CITA to lend their support. Thanks to the programme where 5-cents is collected for every plastic bag sold in the Fosters stores, the company has generously provided a grant of CI $20,000 to CITA to help cull lionfish from the reefs. This effort was designed as a community based solution to the lionfish problem, where everyone can assist—from participating in the dives to buying the lionfish at the grocery store. For CITA, this was a great opportunity, as the non-profit organization already has a significant focus on the lionfish invasion through their watersports sector. Since these sponsored dives began in January 2012, more than 1400 lionfish have been removed from the reefs and placed in the seafood department for sale at Fosters (results are only from sponsored dives; lionfish removed through other efforts are not reported here).
Participating CITA watersports members offer lionfish culling dives almost every weekend. Interested divers can register with the dive shops directly. Participants go out on a two-tank dive to cull lionfish, which are then cleaned and delivered to the fish market at Foster’s Food Fair on Monday morning. Lionfish filet is light, delicately flavored and reportedly very good eating. Fosters Food Fair is hoping their Monday lionfish catch will be popular with local cooks. Even now, shoppers can purchase fresh lionfish in the seafood department at Fosters Food Fair stores.
‘By offering these dedicated dives to remove lionfish on a regular basis, we are not only protecting our marine environment, but one can argue that we are protecting our tourism industry as well,’ states Jane van der Bol, Executive Director for CITA. ‘It is well documented that most tourist arrive to our shores to enjoy the beautiful natural environment that our island and surrounding waters offer. CITA and our watersports operators are excited to be a partner with Fosters to help keep our tourism product as healthy and vibrant as possible!’
Originally from the Pacific Ocean and popular as aquarium fish, lionfish are colorful with venomous spines. First spotted in Florida waters in 1985, the population of the voracious predator has exploded in recent years and spread throughout the Caribbean. To control this marine pest, conservation groups are encouraging fishermen and divers to catch lionfish and eat them. A lionfish cookbook featuring 45 recipes is now available. Lionfish arrived in Cayman waters about three years ago and they continue to multiply and threaten smaller reef fish.
If someone is interested in participating, but is not licensed to cull lionfish through the Department of the Environment, they can still register. Lionfish “spotters” are also needed on board the dive boats. Protecting and preserving the beautiful coral reefs from the invasive lionfish is an effort in which everyone can participate.
Learn when the next Fosters Food Fair Lionfish culling dives take place by clicking here.