Recap: If you can’t beat ‘em, eat ‘em

The first annual “If you can’t beat ‘em, eat ‘em” Lionfish/Lobster Tournament successfully concluded on Sunday, June 9th with a celebration bar-b-que hosted at Hannah’s Haus in Beaufort, NC, but prepared by Libby Eaton of Bistro-by-the Sea. The inaugural event combined local businesses (Discovery DivingSeahorse Coastal ConsultingSeaLake), restaurants (Bistro-by-the-Sea and Hannah’s Haus), and non-profits (Carteret Catch and Eastern Carolina Artificial Reef Association) with the goals of


  1. educating the public about the invasive Lionfish in the Atlantic Ocean;
  2. encouraging participants and the public to try the edible lionfish to discover how tasty these fish are;
  3. encouraging the removal of lionfish from certain areas to create “oases” for native species; and
  4. creating a management strategy and sustainable commercial fishery.

The 10 day tournament began on May 31st with an information session hosted by Discovery Diving in Beaufort, NC and sponsored educational talks by Dr. James Morris, NOAA biologist and Mr. Steve Broadhurst, Dive Safety Officer at NC Aquarium at Pine Knolls Shores. Dr. Morris provided a bit of history on the Lionfish invasion and how their presence in our waters affects the native populations of commercially viable fish species, like snappers and groupers. Mr. Broadhurst provided a demonstration on the proper way to spear the lionfish without getting punctured by their venomous spines.

Twelve people registered for the tournament which ran from June 1st through June 9th. Participants collected their catch and brought it to Discovery Diving daily to be weighed and counted towards their goal. Three prize categories were available: 1) Most lionfish collects; 2) largest Spiny Lobster; and 3) largest poundage of Miscellaneous edible fish.  Despite the bad turn in the weather due to Tropical Storm Andrea, the lionfish category received the most participants with the final tally of 256 lionfish collected mainly from one location. Charlie “Bubbles” Coffman collected the most fish during the tournament with a whopping 50 from one site in one day! Mr. Coffman has nicknamed himself the lionfish slayer. Christie Wilcox, a graduate student at the University of Hawaii, flew in specifically for this event to collect lionfish for her PhD research project.

Libby Eaton of Bistro-by-the-Sea was down at the Big Rock weigh in on Monday, June 10th from 4:00-6:00pm providing samples of lionfish to the public as the weigh ins were taking place. Bistro-by-the-Sea will be providing complimentary lionfish appetizers while supplies last.

More Information on the Lionfish:

The Indo-Pacific Lionfish was mistakenly let into the Atlantic Ocean waters in the early 1990s and it has steadily been moving up the Atlantic coast from Florida every since. It is native to the Indo-Pacific range, however lionfish populations have exploded here for the following reasons: 1) they have no known natural predators in the Atlantic Ocean; 2) they eat approximately half their own body weight each day, which leads to rapid growth and maturation; 3) scientists believe that the females are mature after six months and can lay about 30,000 eggs every 4 days; and 4) traditional fishing methods have not worked to harvest these fish. The combinations listed above have proven an incredibly toxic and destructive mix for the native species of grouper, snapper, and crustaceans in the fertile waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Native species are competing for grazing space and the juveniles of our native species are quickly becoming dinner for the lionfish.

Details of the event can be found on the following webpages, including the rules and registration steps.

Thank you for your support.


Janelle Fleming

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