Lionfish were originally native to the Indo-Pacific region, but sometime in the early 1900s they were accidentally introduced to the eastern Atlantic, likely on the Florida coast. With no natural predators, plentiful food and access to warmer waters, the lionfish population has grown unchecked for two decades, and they are now found everywhere from the Atlantic coast from North Carolina to the Caribbean waters of Belize and Roatan.
Lionfish are skilled hunters that feed on smaller fish, mollusks and invertebrates in large numbers. They live between 5 and 15 years and can grow to over a foot long and weigh as much as a pound—which has been a concern for much of the local community. The invasion of the lionfish is threatening to the delicate ecosystem of Roatan's reefs and, as a result, a chunk of Roatan's economy. The epidemic is upsetting the balance of Roatan's reefs, which are among the best in the world. Finally, anything that threatens the reef also means it threatens diving, which has a direct impact on Roatan's tourist-driven economy.
Come to the lionfish derby for a chance to sample the tastes of the island and save the reef
The Roatan Marine Park, in partnership with DEEP, hosts a two-day lionfish derby to help save the world's second largest barrier reef. For a small fee, two divers can enter as a team to compete for monetary prizes. They are awarded for the largest, smallest and overall number of lionfish captured, as well as to the team with the best name. The proceeds raised over the two-day event benefit the Roatan Marine Park—an organization dedicated to protecting Roatan's greatest asset.
The most talked-about part of the lionfish derby is the Sunday cook off, where chefs from all over the island participate in an effort to win the coveted honor of the best Lionfish recipe. Participants sample great food, support the Roatan Marine Park and help the environment. If you are interested in participating in one of these events—either the diving and hunting part or the strolling and eating part—come on down and help us save the reef, one delicious bite at a time.