What’s more enticing? Getting rid of the invasive predators who gobble up future commercial catch or being named Commercial Champion of the 2017 Lionfish Challenge? This year’s competition, sponsored by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, includes a commercial category in addition to the recreational. But time is running out: The contest began May 20 and ends on Labor Day (Sept. 4).
If contests don’t reel you in, the results of the third Lionfish Removal and Awareness Weekend are still something to celebrate. About 4,000 people attended the two-day festival in Pensacola, Fla., in late May and despite three statewide lionfish tournaments being canceled because of weather that weekend, more than 12,000 of the invaders were removed from Florida waters. Celebrity chefs cooked up some lionfish to encourage a taste for them.
“Those that are passionate about removing lionfish from Florida waters really showed their dedication this weekend,” said Jessica McCawley, director of commission’s Division of Fisheries Management.
In 2016, according to the commission, 11,000 lionfish were removed from Atlantic waters. First spotted in the Atlantic waters off Dania Beach in 1985, the voracious fish native to the Indo-Pacific and the Red Sea proliferated here rapidly and since 2010 have been seen up and down the Atlantic Coast and in the Gulf of Mexico.
This year’s challenge: Remove 25 or more lionfish (or sell at least 25 pounds commercially) by Labor Day and be eligible for prizes.
For more information, visit the website for the Lionfish Challenge.