A lionfish derby is a single day competition to collect and remove as many lionfish as possible. Teams collect lionfish by netting or spearing while SCUBA diving, free diving, or snorkeling. Teams begin competing at sunrise and are required to bring their catch to the scoring station by 5:00 pm. Each fish is measured, and prizes are awarded for teams catching the most, biggest, and smallest lionfish. The public is invited to watch scoring, taste free lionfish samples, watch filleting and dissection demonstrations, and ask questions about lionfish.
The evening before the derby, participants attend a mandatory Captain's Meeting. This presentation includes lionfish biology, ecology, impacts, collecting and handling tools and techniques, and derby rules.
For all Lionfish Derbies: each team member must sign the Liability Waiver and Understanding of Risk Form and fax to REEF (305-852-0301) or bring to Captain's Meeting.
Covers participation fee, one pair of puncture-resistant gloves, and four drink tickets.
Green Turtle Cay Derby $150 US residents ($100 Bahamian residents) also includes two banquet tickets
Teeples Memorial Fort Lauderdale Derby - $120
Palm Beach Derby - $120, also includes two banquet tickets
Key Largo Derby - $120
Captain's Meeting: Friday before derby
5:30 - 6:30 pm: Late registration for those teams not yet registered
6:30 - 7:30 pm: Captain's Meeting
Captain's Meeting is mandatory for the team captains, and all team members are encouraged to attend. The team captain must be one of the four participants in the derby, but does not need to be the captain of the boat. Safe collecting and handling techniques and derby rules will be reviewed. Each team member must fill out and submit a Liability Waiver and Understanding of Risk Form. Be sure to bring forms to meeting (or fax to REEF (305)852-0301 or email to REEFHQ@REEF.org).
Derby Day: Saturday
Sunrise: Teams may begin collecting lionfish.
5:00 pm: All lionfish must be turned into the scoring station.
5:00 - 7:00 pm: Scoring, demonstrations, and lionfish tastings open to the public.
~7:00 - 7:30 (or whenever scoring is complete): Raffle and awards ceremony.
Invasive lionfish (Pterois volitans/miles) are an ever increasing problem through the Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. They have been listed among the top 15 emerging threats to global biodiversity (Sutherland et al 2010). Their predation on fish and invertebrates has been shown to cause dramatic declines in native populations (Green et al 2012). Venomous defenses, year-round reproduction and no controlling predators are faciliatating increased abundances of lionfish to orders of magnitude greater than those known from their native range. Local control of lionfish through diver removals has been shown to be effective at reducing both populations and impacts. To learn more about lionfish read Lionfish Quickfacts or these research publications.
Increase Education and Awareness
Although invasive lionfish are widely dispersed throughout the Atlantic, Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico, a large portion of the general public still does not know about the problem. In addition, there are many myths and much misinformation regarding the biology and ecology of lionfish. Lionfish derbies serve to educate participants and the public and raise awareness of the problem. Significant local, national, and international media coverage of derby events has helped facilitate education to those not geographically connected to the invaded range.
Remove Significant Numbers of Lionfish
Ongoing research studies indicate that single day removal events can be highly effective in lowering the local lionfish population. For example, in the first ever lionfish derby in 2009, participants removed 1,408 lionfish from Green Turtle Cay, Abaco, Bahamas. Listed below are the total number of lionfish removed from REEF derbies for the past four years. Because lionfish have no controlling predators in the invaded range, diver removals are one of the few effective means of reducing the lionfish population at present.
1,408 lionfish removed in 2009
2,587 lionfish removed in 2010
3,542 lionfish removed in 2011
2,694 lionfish removed in 2012
10,231 lionfish removed in all REEF Derbies
Train Divers, Encourage Ongoing Removals
The captain’s meeting at the derby serves to train divers how to properly collect and handle venomous lionfish. Information on where to find lionfish, what tools and techniques are available and how to safely and effectively use them, increases both success and safety of participants. REEF derbies help build a volunteer removal force by equipping divers with necessary tools and skills and by encouraging them to continue removing lionfish throughout the entire year.
Provide Samples for Research
Each lionfish captured during derbies becomes a specimen for scientific research. Many different pieces of data are gathered during derbies such as length, weight, stomach contents, stage of sexual maturity, otoliths, and tissue samples. Collecting data on local lionfish populations year after year tells scientists how the population is changing over time. It is incredibly difficult for scientists to find enough time, funding, and resources to acquire thousands of samples. Derbies make high sample sizes a reality.
Help Develop Markets
After the lionfish are brought in and scored, volunteers fillet and cook the lionfish, and the public is invited to try free tastings. This is the first time many spectators have tasted lionfish or learned how to safely handle and fillet lionfish. These tastings give the public a chance to see how delicious lionfish are and encourage the consumption of lionfish in local restaurants. Derbies also draw media attention to the Atlantic lionfish invasion and help promote development of the commercial lionfish market.
REEF is currently looking for corporate sponsors for the 2013 Lionfish Derby Series. If you would like to get involved by helping fund derby prizes, administrative costs, and derby research projects, please contact REEF Director of Special Projects, Lad Akins, at Lad@REEF.org or (305)852-0030.
Click here for complete derby results and list of winners from 2009-2012 derbies. For photos from past lionfish derbies, check out our photo albums on the REEF Invasive Lionfish Facebook Page.