Although first sighted off of Turkey, Israel, Lebanon and Cyprus back in 2012 lionfish are finally starting to be culled in the island nation of Cyprus this summer. Like many areas in around the Caribbean there is a suspicion that allowing divers to hunt lionfish with small polespears will result in criminal behavior and poaching of native species. We’ve seen this story over and over particularly in areas where spearfishing is prohibited in general. Sometimes a problem just has to get so bad that it can no longer be ignored before the understanding that humans are the solution overpowers the inherent cynicism among government regulators that humans are the problem. As we have pointed out repeatedly in these pages, lionfish are an incredibly successful invasive species capable of reproducing at an astonishing rate and gobbling up native species like only a fish with no predators can.
Fortunately, the Cypriot government has finally come around to the understanding that lionfish removal must be allowed or it will have a significant impact on commercial fishing in the area. The first official lionfish cull was held this summer in a marine protected area off Cape Greco. Regular lionfish removals are planned around the island over the next 2 years with the hope that the population growth can be held in check. As those of us who have been hunting the venomous pests in the western Atlantic for many years now can attest to, not only is hunting lionfish a lot of fun but they are incredibly delicious. Best of luck to all the new Cyprus lionfish hunters out there!