For the past 11 years, REEF has organized lionfish derbies throughout Florida, and we recently kicked off another exciting derby season! During the weekend of June 29-30, thirty divers removed 417 invasive lionfish during REEF’s 8th Annual Fort Lauderdale Lionfish Derby, held at 15th Street Fisheries. Derby competitors dodged periodic thunderstorms while searching the reefs to bring in the smallest lionfish, largest lionfish, and most number of individual lionfish. Team Painkiller won first place in the most lionfish category, bringing in 180 fish. Team Proweb ZooKeeper took first place for the largest lionfish with a 392mm specimen (about 16 inches) and Team Chiefy Crew won the smallest lionfish category, bringing in a 119mm fish which is now on display in an educational aquarium at REEF Headquarters. More than $4,000 in cash and gift prizes were awarded to the winning teams.

Despite heavy rains at the start of the derby, the event was well-attended and participants and members of the public enjoyed a fun afternoon of education and outreach. REEF staff, interns, and volunteers demonstrated how to fillet lionfish while attendees enjoyed free samples of lionfish dip and ceviche.

During the same weekend, REEF staff led a Lionfish Collecting and Handling Workshop in partnership with Sea Experience in Fort Lauderdale. Twenty one participants learned about the ecology and invasion of lionfish and best practices for collecting and handling techniques. Following the class, the group went diving to collect lionfish and then dissected and filleted the lionfish that were caught. Prizes were awarded to the teams who caught the smallest and largest lionfish captured during the workshop. Financial support for Lionfish Collecting and Handling Workshops was provided by a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Foundation (NOAA), through the Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida (FWFF) and Whole Foods Market. Dive charters and spears are sponsored by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commision (FWC).

Thank you to all of the staff, volunteers, and participants who helped make this year's Fort Lauderdale Lionfish Derby a success. This event would not have been possible without the generous support of our sponsors, including 15th Street Fisheries, Whole Foods Market, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and REEF Conservation Partners Sea Experience and Juliet Sailing and Diving.

The remaining events in REEF's 2019 Summer Lionfish Derby Series include the Upper Keys Derby on Sept.15, and the 6th Annual Sarasota Lionfish Derby and public tasting event on July 14, hosted by Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium. To purchase tickets for the lionfish tasting event at Mote, visit For more information on the upcoming lionfish derbies, visit and to purchase tickets for the public tasting event visit