Lionfish Derby Project
Martha Watkins Gilkes
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
ANTIGUA OPEN LIONFISH TOURNAMENT AND FESTIVAL
[St. Johns, Antigua]- The Antigua Lionfish Alliance announces postponement of the International Antigua Open Lionfish Tournament and Festival . The June festival is being rescheduled for this Fall, 2020 (date to be determined) due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our hearts go out to all those impacted by this virus, this includes not only those diagnosed with the virus but also their friends and family, those whose jobs and schools have been impacted and so many more. Our focus is, as always, not only on the reefs of the world but also on the health and safety of all communities.
Because of the rapidly changing situation, and to support everyone’s part in slowing the spread of the virus, we have decided to postpone the Lionfish Derby and Festival. There is no question this is a time of great uncertainty. While we don’t know exactly what the future may hold, we feel confident that by sticking together and supporting each other, we’ll emerge from this stronger than before.
Upon its rescheduling The Festival will be held in the historic Nelson’s Dockyard, a world heritage site, and will reward lionfish hunting in the context of the importance of marine conservation. Big Cash prizes to be announced will be given to the winners in various categories.
A number of exciting events will be taking place during the Festival. The Antigua Open (AO) portion of the Festival includes two days of lionfish hunting by scuba divers and snorkelers, culminating in the cash awards and a lionfish cookoff by some of the Antigua’s top chefs. Lionfish taste fantastic, are low in mercury, and high in Omega 3 Fatty acids.
Other family-friendly activates will include a presentation of prizes for a poster contest on marine conservation held island-wide in our schools. There will be a lionfish jewelry-making event, and a series of mini lectures on various marine environmental topics. There will be entertainment for all with lionfish tastings as well as vendor stalls providing a variety of delicious food and drink.
Interested lionfish hunters can register at https://antigualionfish.com/lionfish-derby-sign-up/ to enter the derby and join in the removal of this invasive and destructive fish. Participants are encouraged to enter the derby as an individual, or as a team (up to four). The cost is $80 EC ($30 USD) per person. It will also be possible to register at designated locations (to be announced) around the island. Prizes will be awarded for both an open category for freedivers and scuba divers, and a freediver only category.
Last spring, the Mill Reef Club generously funded a visit by a team of five American lionfish experts to assess the lionfish problem facing Antigua and Barbuda. Lionfish are known to invade and destroy native fish populations on the coral reefs, leading to the reefs’ destruction. One of the experts’ strong recommendations, furnished in a comprehensive report, was that Antigua sponsor a lionfish derby because similar events have been very successful in Florida and other islands in addressing these invasive predators. Festival organizers hope that one outcome of Antigua’s Festival will be a strong stakeholder group that can begin to address larger goals, like the protection of delicate marine areas, reef restoration projects, and fish conservation.
Lionfish Derby Project Coordinator and Festival Administrator Martha Watkins Gilkes said: “Antigua is a beautiful island and we have a special responsibility to protect our marine environment, not only for our own and our island visitors’ enjoyment, but also for tomorrow’s children. The Festival will allow us to educate our citizens about the importance of supporting and protecting our marine ecology.”
The Lionfish Derby Project would like to thank many community members for making this Festival possible, including the Ministry of Tourism and the Honorable Minister Max Fernandez, the Mill Reef Club as a platinum sponsor of $25,000 US, and Elite Island Resorts as a silver sponsor of $5,000. Island stakeholders are pitching in, including the National Parks Authority, Fisheries, media, dive shops, fishermen, and many others.
The Project is still soliciting sponsorships to make this the best lionfish festival in the Caribbean. All donations are tax deductible (for USA tax) through Lionfish University, a US 501(c)3 non-profit. Please visit https://antigualionfish.com/antigua-lionfish-sponsorship/ for more information or email Marthawatkinsgilkes@gmail.com