What does the ocean mean to you?
In Cayman, the Caribbean Sea is a prime food source and a place to learn about and enjoy our diverse marine life.
However, did you know that invasive lionfish are out-breeding, out-competing and out-living native fish stocks and other marine species? The consequences are impacting food security and economies affecting over a hundred million people.
Introducing CULL, Cayman United Lionfish League. Our on-site Executive Chef at The Brasserie, Thomas Tennant, is one of the founding members behind this conservation effort to protect Cayman’s reefs and marine life.
“Lionfish are disrupting the food chain. They eat the marine ecosystem that clean the reef and if the reef is not cleaned, algae and bacteria start to build up which decreases coral growth rates,” says Thomas.
“The fish we love to eat, like snapper and triggerfish, are reliant on the reefs for protection to grow. If the reefs are no longer there, the fish have no protection and fish stocks are reduced.”
Data collected is showing that lionfish will eat anything that they can fit into their mouths. Their stomach can expand up to 30 times the normal volume and a lionfish will fill it up to capacity as soon as it is able. Scientists have catalogued over 70 different species that lionfish will eat through stomach content analysis. In addition to the fish they eat, they also eat invertebrates and molluscs – shrimp, crabs, juvenile octopus, squid and juvenile lobster, for example.
Lionfish are not native to Caribbean waters (they are native to the Indo-Pacific oceans and the Red Sea), so they have very few predators, yet they themselves are voracious predators. Pretty much everything about the lionfish – its red and white zebra stripes, long, showy pectoral fins and generally cantankerous demeanor – says, “Don’t touch!”
“We’d love to find a natural predator for the lionfish. In the meantime, we need to lead by example, encourage local divers to follow suit, and increase the education and awareness of the detrimental impact that lionfish are having on marine life. The coastal waters around the islands are our backyard and we need to focus on mowing our own lawn,” Thomas explains.
“If you have a licence to spear, hunt lionfish on your next dive and sell them to a local restaurant like The Brasserie. The demand is there. People enjoy eating lionfish and as long as the fish are fresh, I’ll take them.
“Just remember to buy and eat local lionfish to support the health of our local reef systems. Restaurants now have the option of importing lionfish, but in order to make a difference locally, we need to be sourcing and eating local lionfish.”
Thomas is one of several chefs on island who is incorporating lionfish into the menu. So, enjoy eating lionfish at The Brasserie Restaurant knowing the conservation effort behind this dish and the low food miles that it took to get to the plate.
Please contact the restaurant with your lion fish catch on 945 1815.
Another inspiring local initiative is the Cayman Swordfish tag and release program that is “single-handedly becoming responsible for more satellite tagging data and science on the swordfish than anywhere else in the world,” according to Gray FishTag research scientist Travis “Tag” Moore.
“The data indicates peak seasons for when the swordfish are in the Cayman waters. The data shows feeding behaviour and the vertical migration patterns. The data can indicate how long swordfish stay around the islands and which islands they stay around the most.
“This information is important to help protect Cayman’s exclusive fishery against international rogue fishing fleets by establishing scientific evidence for international authorities that illustrate these fish are in the Cayman waters for certain time periods.”
How do you intend to celebrate World Oceans Day?