In the Lesser Antilles, east of the Virgin Islands and just north of Saint-Martin lies the beautiful limestone and coral island of Anguilla. Famous for its many white sand beaches, amazing restaurants and great night life, Anguilla is a popular diving destination with several sunken shipwrecks to explore, beautiful coral reefs and clearwaters! However, it now has its share of the invasive lionfish problem and they’d appreciate your help!
First discovered there in 2010, a study was conducted, and researchers found that most lionfish were on the northern leeward side of the island including areas around many of the cays in the archipelago. In a more recent study, it seems that while the numbers are down, (probably from the culling efforts of local divers) the lionfish are generally larger in size now which is typical of a species that has established itself in a new area.
It is interesting that the local fishers have been catching lots of them in their fish traps set on deep water shoals further offshore! And that raises a question or two about lionfish trap research, for sure! They were reluctant to keep these invasive fish at first but today there is a demand for them among the 100 or so restaurants on Anguilla and its surrounding islands. So as a result, lionfish has become a bit of a ‘fishery’ for them now.
Visitors can spear lionfish on locally owned dive boats but only Anguilla citizens or “belongers” can sell them to restaurants (at $5 USD per lb) we’re told. You may use polespears or spearguns for lionfish (no size or tip restrictions) but only while diving with these local charter boat operators. This even applies to the half dozen or so marine parks where lionfish may be taken, but everything else is left unharmed. The people of Anguilla are very concerned about protecting the native fish there, so don’t expect grouper on the menu for instance.
The Anguilla Fisheries and Marine Resources (AFMR) encourages visiting divers to enjoy a day of lionfish hunting with one of the several dive charter services on the island. Most will either cook them up for you at the end of the day or send some back with you to your hotel!
To book a day of lionfish culling:
1264 235 4096
Scuba Shack / Shoal Bay Scuba
1264 235 1482
1264 235 1008
(just to name a few ..)
There are others, and all have great reputations! Everything is offered on Anguilla. snorkeling, introductory scuba lessons, open water certification, night dives, etc.
We wanted to mention a few restaurants who feature lionfish on their menus but this changes with availability of course. “Dads Bar & Grill” and “Mangos” were recommended but I would ask around or see what your boat captain has to say.
Happy hunting and please share your photos with us!
Reporting for LFU,
Lionator Pole Spears