Pterois volitans... aka the Red Lionfish
The story is pretty well documented at this point. These beautiful creatures are native to the Indo-Pacific, but sometime in the early 1990s they were accidentally introduced to the Eastern Atlantic, likely around Florida. With no natural predators, plentiful food and warmer waters, their population has grown unchecked for two decades, and they are now found from the Atlantic coast off North Carolina to the Caribbean waters of Belize and Roatan.
Lionfish are skilled hunters that feed on smaller fish, mollusks and invertibrates in large numbers. They live between five and fifteen years and can grow to over a foot long and weigh as much as a pound. That has become a big problem.
What Is The Link To A Roatan Vacation Rental?
There are three reasons all of this matters to the average person on a Roatan vacation:
- the invasion of the Lionfish is threatening the delicate ecosystem of Roatan's reefs and, as a result, a chunk of Roatan's economy
- a couple of times throughout the year, the Roatan Marine Park puts on a Lionfish Derby to protect the reefs by hunting the fish
- the Derbies end with a Lionfish cooking contest and you can often find the winning dishes in restaurants around the island
Point one is probably obvious, but the introduction of a new species that eats voraciously removes elements of the food chain and upsets the balance that makes Roatan's reefs among the best in the world. Anything that threatens the reef threatens diving, and that threatens a big piece of Roatan's tourist-driven economy.
Enter the Lionfish Derby
For a few years now, Roatan has been holding contests to help control the Lionfish invasion. As it turns out, today marks the beginning of this year's first Lionfish Derby. For $20, two divers can enter as a team. Prizes are awarded for size and number of catch each day. Proceeds benefit (literally, in two ways) the Roatan Marine Park - the organization established to protect Roatan's greatest asset.
But the best part of the Lionfish Derby for most visitors is the Lionfish Cook-off on Sunday. Chefs from all over the island participate in an effort to win the coveted honor of best Lionfish recipe. Participants sample great food, support the Roatan Marine Park and truly help the environment. How cool is that? Eat gourmet and save the reef!
If you are interested in participating in one of these events some day (either the diving and hunting part or the strolling and eating part), Coral Vista Villas are a great place to stay because like so many things in Roatan, West End is not only where the action is... it's where the Roatan Marine Park office is, and it's where the Lionfish Derby is! So give us a shout, come on down and help us save the reef... one delicious bite at a time.