Catch da lion

Reducing the impact of lionfish

The lionfish originally comes from coral reefs in the Indian and Pacific oceans. They were accidentally introduced to the Caribbean in the 90’s, eventually reaching Belize in 2008. Here in the Caribbean, lionfish have no natural predators. They grow and reproduce very quickly, without having to worry about being eaten. Most of their diet is made up of juvenile fish, such as snapper and parrotfish, and invertebrates such as shrimp. These fish are important for keeping Belize’s coral reefs, fisheries and fishing communities healthy.

Lionfish are NOT poisonous, they have 18 venomous spines. The meat is perfectly safe to eat and can be prepared in a variety of ways; ceviche, fried, baked, soup etc. Once caught, use the following image to safely remove all 18 venemous spines and prepare it for cooking! Scissors or a fillet knife is all you need!

Get involved!

  1. Ask your local dive shop, tour operator or tour guide about going out to catch lionfish! Many businesses around Belize offer guests the chance to go out and remove lionfish from our beautiful reefs!
  2. Find that friend who has a boat and head out to the reef to go catch lionfish yourself! See the FAQ below for more information on the tools you will need!
  3. Organize or participate in a Lionfish tournament! Lionfish tournaments have been organized in San Pedro, Caye Caulker, Dangriga and Placencia. Anybody can form a team and enter to catch the most, biggest & smallest lionfish for prizes and good fun!Interested in organizing one, contact us here for support regarding best practices, tournament rules and the materials you will need to get started!
  4. OR, join one of Blue Ventures’ Lionfish expeditions, to get involved in research & culling efforts in Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve!
  5. OR join ReefCI’s lionfish programme


Now you try!


What will happen to me if I touch a lionfish?

As long as you watch out for the 18 venomous spines, lionfish are perfectly safe to touch and eat. Once you cut off the spines, you can handle the lionfish just like any other fish; snapper, grouper, chiwa, etc.

What if I get stung?

While painful, lionfish stings are easy to treat! Simply submerge the stung area in very hot (but not boiling, you don’t want to cook your hand!) water for 30-45 minutes and the pain will subside & go away. Heat denatures venom!

What equipment do I need to start catching lionfish?

  1. Three-pronged pole spear
  • Legal restrictions – needs to be 3 feet, 3 pronged with barbed tips and no trigger mechansim
  • While many of Belize’s small-scale fishers catch lionfish with a simple lobster hook-stick, we recommend a three-pronged pole spear. Effective, and powerful, you won’t miss!
  1. Containment device
  • A bucket, zookeeper, or puncture proof bag all work great at holding your biggest & smallest lionfish.
  1. Hot water thermos
  • Keep one of these on the boat just in case you get stung! Make sure it is big enough to fit your hand.. You can even bring your coffee or tea along, just don’t drink it all until you’re done spearing!

Where can I find Lionfish in the water?

Lionfish love the reef, patch reefs and any kind of rocky substrate. You can see them hovering over the reef, sometimes hidden away in a little hole or crevice. You may even be able to find them around docks, bridges or underwater wrecks. With practice your eyes will get used to spotting them!

What should I do about the spines once I have caught a lionfish?

The 18 venomous spines can easily be removed with scissors or a fillet knife. Bring one along on the boat to always be prepared!