To get a job as an accountant on this island, you pretty much have to be certified. The accounting firms here seem to only hire CPAs (or CAs, or whatever else the world calls it.) I intend to write a post on the variety of requirements it takes to become certified around the world, because it was shocking to me that Americans are some of the only accountants (I've met) that don't get paid to become certified.

However, I'm here to announce my latest designation: I (along with NS) am now a Licensed Lionfish Culler. I'm feeling pretty proud! Here's the skinny: The Lionfish is not native to the Cayman Islands, and after being introduced (by Hurricane Andrew or aquarium dumpers), started consuming the rest of the beautiful fish population. Besides the disrupted ecosystem, this affects the variety of scuba diving experiences. The Department of Environment on Grand Cayman trains snorkelers and divers to hunt for the Lionfish, catch them, and eat them! Supposedly they are quite tasty, and I do love seafood.

Now, lest you think that we are cruel, predatory divers (which we probably are), you have to understand that this is a major, growing problem for the entire Caribbean and much of the U.S. east coast. Since Lionfish are native to Africa, there are very few natural predators around to control the population. During our 1-hour culling class, we saw a video where even sharks rejected Lionfish being hand-fed to them by humans.  The other problem is that Lionfish are gluttonous eaters, eating fish half their body-length.  In addition to all this, they produce eggs every four days and can take over a region very quickly.  Thus, the human intervention.

To catch a Lionfish, it is recommended you work in a team of 2-8 people. You can use spear guns, but because Lionfish can sense the slightest quick movement in the water, like the squeezing of a trigger finger, they can quickly dart out of reach. The training recommends using two nets and a dry bag to catch them and secure them before returning to the surface. The technique is to sort of lull the Lionfish into a false sense of security before closing the two nets around it. You then bring the nets to the sea floor, remove the bottom net, push the fish into a corner, then grab it (with gloved hand - see below) by its face in order to place it in a dry bag. Simple.

However, catching the Lionfish poses some hazards. See all those beautiful fins on top of their bodies? Those are actually venomous spikes which they can dexterously move about to defend themselves when under attack.  There are more spikes (which are hard to see and easy to forget about) under the body. As long as you steer clear of the fish's top and bottom, you won't be injected with venom, but the face does have some sharp spines you have to watch out for when grabbing them out of the nets.

If a culler does encounter the Lionfish's venom, the injury will be classified as Level 1, 2, or 3. Level 1 is a quick stick which produces searing pain (described to us as "a hot anvil pressed on your skin by a sumo wrestler." Ouch.)  The medical treatment for this is 30-90 minutes of a hot water bath. No big deal. Level 2 requires a hospital visit as the skin surrounding the area will probably swell, blister, and ultimately be removed. Level 3 involves amputation. (At this point in the presentation, every one in the room was second-guessing his reasons for signing up.)

But they're not deadly! What a relief. I'm ready to go out there and start wracking up Lionfish kills (and eats.) There is a Lionfish Culling Derby this weekend with prizes and a huge cookout after, but since we won't be certified Open Water divers until Sunday [plus we're moving (!)], we'll have to forgo this opportunity. Don't worry, though, this license won't go to waste. Lionfish recipes to follow!


Post a Comment