People have hunted all manner of animals for sport – from pheasants, to deer, to an assortment of fish from the sea. Most of the time, however, their sport little serves to benefit the environment. How would you like, for a change, to take part in a hunt that eradicates a dangerous invasive species? One that provides ample enjoyment and recreation at the same time. All in an environment where you are surrounded by stunning, natural beauty? Well, if this strikes a chord with you, plan a visit to our island haven in Belize to help us keep the lionfish population under control.
Native to the Indian and Pacific oceans, the red lionfish (Pterosis Volitans), the variety found in our waters, was released into the Atlantic in the 1980s — most likely by Florida aquarium owners who grew tired of feeding the ravenous creatures. Since then, these aptly-named, orange- and red-striped ‘lions’ have colonized coastal waters from Rhode Island to South America, devastating local fish populations. Their population numbers explode wherever they go, as they have very few predators – due to the effectiveness of their venomous spikes – and because they spawn monthly. They are voracious eaters – feeding on small fish, invertebrates, and mollusks in huge quantities – and are skilled hunters, utilizing specialized bladder muscles to quickly alter their center of gravity to attack their prey.
At Ray Caye in Belize, the lionfish population is hunted to reduce endangerment to our local species. Interested guests can be taken out to the reef in pursuit of the invasive predators. Lionfish hunting differs from regular fishing trips – instead of fishing lines, spears are used. It is often a risky business, but it’s one that is very rewarding. The sting of a lionfish, though rarely fatal, can be very painful. Guides often advise against spearing them in the sides, as they are able to swim up the spear and stab you in the hand; spearing them in the head is the safest way to go. As a further precaution, guides often clip the spikes of lionfish after they are speared to avoid the risk of being stung by the struggling quarry.
You can take your haul of lionfish with you back to our world-renowned, applicably-named Lionfish Bar & Grill, where your catch is cleaned and prepared into a sumptuous lunch or dinner. The flavor has been compared to swordfish – light and toothsome to the taste. Contact us at Ray Caye for more information about coming to Belize to hunt the lions of the sea!