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Union Island joins war on lionfish

Union Island joins war on lionfish

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For the first time ever, the 2014 Union Island Easterval will include a lionfish derby and lionfish barbecue. The island is wholeheartedly joining their neighbours on Mayreau in the effort to control the voracious and venomous species in the waters around the Southern Grenadines, especially the Tobago Cays Marine Park.{{more}}

“Lionfish are eating machines,” said Ken Williams, manager of the Tobago Cays Marine Park. “If we don’t get them, they’ll get all the fish and crustaceans in our waters, which will destroy our fisheries. Then, without cleaner species, our reefs would die. That would be a nightmare for the Tobago Cays Marine Park, which relies on the protective Horseshoe Reef. So, with coaching from the Mayreau Regatta and Sporting Committee, who started hosting lionfish derbies in 2012, we are working with the Easterval Committee to get Union Island’s first annual derby off the ground.

“On Friday, April 11, we will be offering a $500 cash prize for the team that brings in the most lionfish, a $300 prize for second place and $200 for the third-placed team,” said Lesroy Noel, who is spearheading the project, with coaching from Mayreau’s Nancy Saul-Demers. “We are also offering $250 to the team that brings in the single largest lionfish and the same again for the smallest lionfish. Since the entry fee is only $5 per man or woman, this is a good chance for fishers to make some good money while also doing good for our local fish and keeping our tourism and fisheries industries healthy.

“Teams must pre-register with us and attend a safety briefing before heading out,” stressed Noel. “Safety comes first.” Teams may leave the fisheries dock on Union no earlier than 6 a.m. on April 11 and must return by 3 p.m. After the contest concludes and the catch has been weighed and measured, it will be cooked up by a local chef, so that fishermen and others have a chance to sample the tasty treat.

“Some people think you can’t eat lionfish because they think the meat is poisonous,” said Saul-Demers, “But that’s just not true. Lionfish do have 18 venomous spines, so you handle them carefully and you don’t eat the venomous spines, of course! Lionfish are on the menus of many good restaurants elsewhere in the Caribbean and they’re delicious. Now, folks on Union Island will have a chance to eat them. Once they’ve tried them, I’m sure they’ll love eating them like I do.”

After kicking off with the lionfish derby, Union Island’s Easterval 2014 runs from April 12 to 21 and features fun of all kinds: inter-school sports, a comedy extravaganza, church service, princess pageant, full-moon party, fish fest, fire fete, cultural extravaganza, foam fete, fashion show, sports night, all-white glow, cricket, kids’ fair, soca fest, boat cruise, Miss Easterval pageant and J’Ouvert.

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