REEF's 2023 Lionfish Derby Series
WHAT IS A DERBY?
A lionfish derby is a single day competition to collect and remove as many lionfish as possible. Participants attend a mandatory Captain's Meeting with a presentation about lionfish biology, ecology, impacts, collecting and handling techniques, and derby rules. Teams collect lionfish by netting or spearing while SCUBA diving, free diving, or snorkeling. 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.
WHY ARE DERBIES IMPORTANT?
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.
Removal of Significant Numbers of Lionfish
Ongoing research studies indicate that single day removal events can be highly effective in lowering the local lionfish populations. The 2020 Upper Keys Derby removed 1321 lionfish from South Florida reefs in one day. Listed below are the total number of lionfish removed from REEF derbies. Diver removals are one of the few effective means of reducing the lionfish population at present.
1,578 lionfish removed in 2010
3,542 lionfish removed in 2011
2,694 lionfish removed in 2012
2,951 lionfish removed in 2013
2,820 lionfish removed in 2014
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.
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.