Hunting the Lion Fish
I was recently in Los Roques, Venezuela where I participated in my first “Lion Fish” hunt, a beautiful species that a lot of people look at with pity while us divers hunt it with such enthusiasm. The reason why its hunt is permitted is because it represents a plague for the sea fauna and the current ecosystem.
There are different theories about why this species (representing the Scorpaenidae family) arrived to the Caribbean when it’s actually characteristic of the Pacific and Indian oceans. It is believed that it has been introduced in a probably accidental manner into the waters of the eastern Atlantic and it has become a catastrophe. One of the theories is that after the Andrew Hurricane (1992), various members of the species escaped a Florida aquarium. This colorful and exotic fish represents a serious threat for the sea ecosystem. They feed on babies from other species and due to that, they have slowly eliminated several fish population.
Therefore, numerous initiatives have been developing around the different Caribbean countries in which its presence has been reported. A lot of these intend to keep under control the species’ populations. This happens because it’s a fish that currently has no natural predators, (in the Caribbean), although some cases of Groupers and Congers eating this species have been reported.
My experience was with the ADC Los Roques operator in the diving spot “Las Gatas”. Adrián Rondon, Divemaster, taught me how to catch them outside of the water with the Hawaiian spear and he took a container with a half-opening in the middle in order to put them inside once he had them on the spear.
After Adrian put numerous fish in the container I tried my first hunting. So I asked for the spear and with his guidance I got my first close encounter with the Lion Fish and a weapon. Obviously, my first attempt failed and being honest, the second did too. It was my third attempt that one that speared this colorful plague at the bottom of the sea.
Thinking in the total eradication of this species (also known as Scorpion Fish) is unlikely. However, the human being are the ones that can help the most to fight it. The best way is to hunt them with a tank or doing apnea. Both ways are permitted due to the previous explanation. For its hunt is necessary to be very careful about their dorsal fish-bones because they have a painful poison for humans and lethal for other fish. That’s why it must be done with a Hawaiian spear.
Once you have the animal it can be prepared in different ways. Culinary competitions have taken place in Venezuela, Aruba and other countries in order to promote and make known its exquisite flavor and its white and delicious meat. My favorite is the ‘ceviche’. That day in which I hunted my first Lion Fish, the Divemaster managed to obtain 12 more and thanks to his abilities in and out of the water with the company of captain ‘Chalao’ and Francisco García we ate a delicious ceviche.
A lot of fishermen and people have asked me if the poison from the fish-bone poisons the food and the answer is: false. So you can delight yourself eating this species imported from other oceans and meanwhile you will also be helping with the preservation of the sea’s ecosystem.
Thank you to Beatriz Siegert, Adrián Rondón, Carlos “Marciano” and the entire ADC Los Roques operation for being part of the information contained in this article. Special thanks to http://www.aquarena.com.ve/ for the delicious food, the love and the VIP attentions and the just like home stay at @CasaTramontoLosRoques
Aloha and may the Lion fish hunt continue!