On May 18, the first lionfish derby was realized in Guatemala. It was held in front of the Motagüilla coastal community, in the Punta de Manabique Wildlife Refuge.
It was a private sector initiative, as two dive shops gather their efforts to organize this derby and making it happen: Water Quest and Big Dive. Water Quest was the one that led the event. They did some research about how these activities have been done in other countries of the MAR region. They also got information about the existing regulation regarding lionfish derbies, required certification in other countries, and the needed equipment they are allowed to use to hunt down this invasive species.
After getting all this information, Water Quest organized a couple of informative training workshops, inviting known divers that were interested in participating in the lionfish derby.
Water Quest also got the pole spears or 'hawaiian slings', that are the type of harpoons required for hunting the lionfish. They also managed to get the storage bins that are used for keeping the dead lionfish. These were donated.
The Guatemalan Fisheries Administration (DIPESCA), also joined the organization of the event and was present the day of the derby to guarantee that lionfish was the only target species of the tournament, as well as no corals were harmed or collected from the water.
Almost 40 people participated in the derby, and 126 lionfish were killed - not a bad figure at all to be the first derby in the country. The lionfish were donated to the Motagüilla fishing community for self-consumption.
Another lionfish derby is being planned for the month of July. This time, the National Council of Protected Areas (CONAP) will also participate in order to take advantage of the event and gather biological information. This time, the methodology (protocol) to estimate local lionfish density will be applied.
We look forward to sharing with you the results from this coming event.
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