Control of Lionfish in the Mesoamerican Reef

by Mesoamerican Reef Fund (MAR Fund)

As the invasion of lionfish raises among Coastal and Marine Protected Areas of the Mesoamerican Reef Region, a meeting to start with the development of a MAR lionfish control strategy is being organized.

Authorities from the four countries of the region and the international cooperation are planning to gather a well-selected group of experts in lionfish to share experiences and to prepare the basics for a MAR strategy to control this invasive species.  

Based on the Caribbean Strategy for the control of lionfish, the experts will work for two days to develop a document that, after been discussed and completed with feedback from other key actors of the region, will be finished and will hopefully become a regional strategy.

The meeting will end with a lionfish tasting prepared for an open public, in which information about the biology and ecology of lionfish.  A talk regarding why the consumption of lionfish is an effective control tool will also be presented.

We will definetly let you know how this regional meeting goes and what were its results.

Fishers and authorities jointly catching lionfish
Fishers and authorities jointly catching lionfish

After the success reached by the lion fish cook off during the National Food Fair in September, fishermen from Quetzalito, a small fishing village from the Guatemalan Caribbean, with the support of DIPESCA (Fisheries Administration) and Water Quest, a dive shop committed with some groups of fishermen, brought lionfish to a prestigious Spanish restaurant in Guatemala City.  

During the event, several lionfish dishes were served to the participants, that included: NGOs, GOs, private sector and general public.  All dishes were a complete success, giving the impression that lionfish might be well accepted as a gourmet meal.

The community of Quetzalito is really looking forward to start commercializing lionfish as an economic alternative as they know they wouldn't be just earning income but collaborating with the reef ecosystem of their country. 

Now that Guatemala has joined the lionfish battle in the MAR region, a regional workshop is starting to be planned to develop a MAR strategy to face the lionfih invasion.  Individual and local measures have to be shared and expanded at a regional level.  Even when is not a warranty, It is the best way to address this issue.

We will keep you posted about this workshop and will let you know if Quetzalito becomes a lionfish supplier for Guatemala city.

Thank you very much for your support!

The MAR Fund Team

Lionfish ceviche served at the cook off
Lionfish ceviche served at the cook off

Last Saturday, September 07, a second lionfish derby was held with the Quetzalito fishing community, again in the site known as Motagüilla in Punta de Manabique.

This time, the goal was a much more interesting one.  The National Food Fair was going to be held in Guatemala City from Monday 9 to Wednesday 11, and the fishers, with support from Scuba Dive Shops, Dim Sum Restaurant, GOs and NGOs, wanted to promote lionfish conssumption during this event.

It is important to mention that the owner of Dim Sum Restaurant already has a cooperation agreement with MAR Fund, and he donates a percent of the profit generated by certain dishes of his restaurant, for sustainable fishing projects.

During the derby, sixty eight lionfish were hunted thanks to thirty six brave divers. The amount of fish was not much, but it was just fine for the Food Fair.  The hunted lionfish were brought to the fair and a cook off was set to all participants in the fair. Many people had the experince of tasting the delicious lionfish meat.

As a result of this initiative, a group of restaurants, including Dim Sum, became really interested in including lionfish to their menus. Fishers are very excited to start selling this new product while protecting the reef by extracting this invasive and harmful species.


Lionfish spotted during the derby
Lionfish spotted during the derby

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. 

During the month of April, Guatemala will celebrate the Second 'Festival of the Sea' in Puerto Barrios, Izabal.

Many activities are being proposed for this popular event, including: a sand statues sculpture tournament and a wall painting tournament, music, aquatic activities, stands of information on: climate change, mangroves, fisheries, use of water, etc.

For the last day of the event, the fisheries authority and a fishing community of the Punta de Manabique Wildlife Refuge are organizing a lionfish rally.  They are planning on dividing the rally in two phases:

  • Catch of lionfish, and
  • Lionfish cooking demonstration

This shows that fishing communities from Guatemala have already identified the lionfish as a plague and want it out of their fishing ground, as this fish represents competition for them.

The initiative is also telling us that they are aware of the potential that the lionfish has as a food alternative, as long as it is handle it with the respective caution.

Do you think a rally is a good start for the Guatemalan fishermen?

Thanks for your support,

Tha MAR Fund Team


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Organization Information

Mesoamerican Reef Fund (MAR Fund)

Location: Guatemala - Guatemala
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Maria Jose Gonzalez
Executive Director
Guatemala, Guatemala
$4,519 raised of $95,000 goal
31 donations
$90,481 to go
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