By Robert A. Emmanuel
Fishing enthusiasts and members of the public successfully removed 864 lionfish from Antigua’s waters during a tournament held at Nelson’s Dockyard over the weekend.
Speaking to Observer, one of the main organisers, Martha Watkins Gilkes, declared the event to reduce numbers of the invasive species a resounding success.
She stated that the number of lionfish caught was alarming, and she hoped that “this will bring a lot of attention to the issue, and that more fishermen will go out there and catch lionfish”.
The event was held in conjunction with the local Elkhorn Marine Conservancy and the California-based non-profit, Lionfish University.
The programme included a lionfish hunting competition, a lionfish cooking competition, a marine conservation youth poster contest, and a lionfish jewellery workshop.
More than EC$34,000 in cash prizes were also awarded in total – one of the largest purses ever given in a tournament in Antigua.
In the lionfish art competition, students from Christ the King High School took home the majority of the honours.
In the 14 to 18 age category, 14-year-old Xezlaina Looby took first place, 14-year-old Celeste Softleigh won second place, and 15-year-old Arianna Amsterdam was third.
In the nine to 13 age category, 13-year-old Summer Goodwin took home first place, 12-year-old Je’Nique Rhodes won second place and 13-year-old Shania Mckenzie took third place.