Lionfish Live! at TCMS

Colorful, spikey, and a favorite of hobby aquarists, lionfish – a carnivorous species native to the Indian and Pacific Oceans – is now one of the most destructive invasive species in the Gulf of Mexico. With a voracious diet, no known natural predators, and the ability to lay up to 50,000 eggs per female every 3-4 days, lionfish have been threatening the Caribbean ecosystem since their accidental introduction into the Florida Cayes in the mid-1980s. Since invading Belize in December 2008, these invasive predators have posed a substantial threat to the barrier reefs of Belize, recognized as one of the healthiest coral reefs in the world

So, to help combat this marine menace, we are headed back to Belize to help our friends at  Tobacco Caye Marine Station  for their summer Lionfish Tournament! And this time we are offering more ways for you to engage with the staff and learn about the ecological impacts of this invasive species.

lionfish are an invasive species

Throughout the two-day event we will be streaming activities live from the Marine Station. You will not only experience the beauty of the pristine beaches of coastal Belize, but also learn how conservation efforts are working to protect the coral reefs from the impact of the invasive lionfish. The sessions will be guided by the expert staff of the Tobacco Caye Marine Station, whose efforts have made the Station the #1 lionfish collection site in Belize!

Why Hunt Lionfish?

As we mentioned, lionfish are an invasive species in Belize and across the Caribbean. They prey on Belize’s native fish and have no natural predators to reduce their numbers. Regular population culls such as the TCMS Lionfish Tournament are necessary to reduce their damage to Belize’s pristine coral reef ecosystem. 

Learn more about lionfish here

The staff at the Tobacco Caye Marine Station are experts in coral reef conservation. Just check out these stats!

About the Tournament

This event marks Tobacco Caye Marine Station’s third lionfish tournament! During the tournament, registered teams consisting of a boat captain and divers hunt for lionfish throughout the South Water Caye Marine Reserve. Staff and volunteers then count and process the lionfish, gathering data on the invasive species to share with the Belize Fisheries Department, Lionfish Patrol, and Lionfish Central. 

This spring the teams caught 287 lionfish – a new record! This time, we hope to catch even more! Interested in what you may see? Then check out the video below with some of the highlights from the previous tournament.

Schedule of Events!

Here is a tentative schedule of the live events planned for the day. This may change slightly before the event starts, but we will provide an updated list by email 48 hours before!

Thursday July 28th – live talks from the experts at the Tobacco Key Marine Station on coral reef ecology and the impact of lionfish on the marine ecosystem.

  • 10am EST (8am BZE) : We go live to TCMS to see how the morning is going and check in with the staff!
  • 3pm EST (1pm BZE): Live talk from the TCMS staff on lionfish and the importance of lionfish removal and coral reef conservation.
  • 5pm EST (3pm BZE): Arrival of the first teams and lionfish count. Prizes will be awarded to each team.

Friday July 29th – the science of lionfish conservation, and how to make lionfish tournaments benefit local economies (just a hint… lionfish make great ceviche and ornaments!!)

  • 11 am EST/9am BZE Learn about lionfish physiology and diet through live dissections of the catch.
  • 12 noon EST/ 10am BZE. How to turn an invasive lionfish into jewelry!
  • 1pm EST /11am BZE Did you know that lionfish taste great? In this session, we will share recipes and learn how to cook lionfish ceviche!
  • 3pm EST / 1pm BZE We go live with the Director of TCMS for a Q&A about lionfish. Have a question, interested in participating or learning more? Stop on in!
  • 4pm EST /2pm BZE. Lionfish filet competition! Who can filet the most lionfish?
  • 5pm EST/ 3pm BZE. Lionfish cooking competition! A definite reward for a hard day’s work.
  • 6pm EST/ 4pm BZE. Wrap up of the major events from the Tournament
a collection of lionfish in Belize

How do I Get Involved in the Lionfish Tournament?

Registration for the event is easy. Just fill out the form below and the we will email you a Zoom link for the live sessions a few days before the activities. This will not only give you access to the live events, but also recorded videos from behind the scenes at the tournament!!

Please be sure to check your email for the event links!!

By registering you agree to be added to the Inspire Me! and Tobacco Caye Newsletters. Links to the activities associated with this event will be sent to your email by Inspire Edventures!

The cost is free! However, we would like to encourage you to donate to support coral reef education and conservation. Therefore, we would like to suggest a donation of $5 per person for the July 28th events, $7.50 per person for the July 29th events, or $10 for both days. All proceeds will go to supporting coral reef conservation efforts.

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