This summer, divers in Florida will once again sharpen their spears, ready their nets, and hone their lionfish hunting skills to compete in the annual REEF Lionfish Derby Series. Their mission: remove as many lionfish as possible. Their reward: more than $14,000 in cash prizes for bringing in lionfish and the knowledge that they are helping to save native Florida fish species.
Invasive lionfish are voracious predators from the Indo-Pacific that threaten Florida’s marine ecosystems by devouring more than 120 species of our native fish and invertebrates. Defended from predators by 18 venomous spines, lionfish rule the reefs and reproduce as often as every four days, year round. Though lionfish may seem unstoppable, divers and snorkelers can significantly reduce local populations and allow native fish populations to recover. Lionfish derbies serve to educate the public, provide samples for researchers, and encourage market development, on top of removing thousands of ecologically devastating lionfish.
The following dates have been set for the 2017 Lionfish Derby Series:
- July 7th – 9th —Second Annual Sarasota Lionfish Derby at Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium
- July 14th & 15th —Sixth Annual Fort Lauderdale Lionfish Derby at 15th Street Fisheries
- July 28th & 29th —Eighth Annual Upper Keys Lionfish Derby at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
- August 11th – 13th —Seventh Annual Palm Beach County Derby at Loggerhead Marinelife Center
REEF is excited to partnering again with Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, 15th Street Fisheries, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park and Loggerhead Marinelife Center. REEF is happy to be working with the 2017 sponsors including the Ocean Reef Conservation Commission, the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, Florida Parks Service, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and ZooKeeper LLC.
Hopes for the 2017 season are high, as divers removed 2,426 lionfish in 2016. Both divers and snorkelers are invited to compete in removal events and derby festivities are open to the public. Mandatory Captain’s meetings will be held the day before the derby. On derby day, spectators are encouraged to attend and taste free lionfish samples. You can find further information here: www.REEF.org/lionfish/derbies.
Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) is a non-profit organization founded in 1993 that seeks to conserve marine ecosystems by educating, enlisting, and enabling divers and marine enthusiasts to become active ocean stewards and citizen scientists. REEF membership is free and totals more than 60,000 individuals.