By AIC guest blogger, Jenn Travis, NOAA Coral Fellow at St. Croix East End Marine Park
Lionfish first appeared in the water surrounding St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands in the mid-90s and now, they’re an epidemic! Not only do they eat tons of our smaller reef fish each year, they also have a painful sting when handled incorrectly. The Virgin Islands would be lost without our reefs so everyone is finding ways to combat the lionfish invasion.
The Friends of the St. Croix East End Marine Park host a lionfish derby each year at one of St. Croix’s biggest music festivals, Reef Jam. The 3rd annual Lionfish Derby at Reef Jam at Rainbow Beach was held on the weekend of May 25th. The event hosted nine lionfish hunters and brought in exactly 100 dead lionfish. Awards were given out for the longest, smallest, and heaviest lionfish, as well as most lionfish caught. Prizes for the Derby winners, such as dive trips, jewelry, and gift certificates for dinner, were donated by local businesses.
The Friends of the St. Croix East End Marine Park helped build awareness of this issue during the event, which brought in over 2000 participants. At the fish weigh-in, the group’s booth was swamped and lots of families came by to learn more about the lionfish we caught.