2020 Lionfish Derby Series


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.



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.

Check out this great video of our 2019 Upper Keys Lionfish Derby and Festiva at Postcard Inn Resort & Marina!
Hope to see you at our next one!

Upper Keys Lionfish Festival Video

Four recent documentary national news pieces were created from the REEF Derby Series

 CBS News Lionfish CBS News - REEF's Sarasota Lionfish Derby

BBC Earth Lionfish BBC Earth - REEF's Fort Lauderdale Lionfish Derby 

VICE News Tonight Lionfish VICE News Tonight on HBO - REEF's Upper Keys Lionfish Derby

Civil Eats Lionfish Florida’s Answer to Invasive Lionfish? If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Eat ‘Em

Recent Local News Articles

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 ten 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
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
1,141 lionfish removed in 2015
2,426 lionfish removed in 2016
2,532 lionfish removed in 2017
3,337 lionfish removed in 2018
2,300 lionfish removed in 2019
26,729 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. 

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.

Past Lionfish Derbies