For the first three weeks in July, REEF’s Invasive Species Program Manager, Dr. Alli Candelmo, and Lead Intern for the Invasive Species Program, Madalyn “Moose” Mussey, have spent almost every day underwater conducting lionfish research. With the help of Forever Young Charter Company, Tony Young, Jeff Leonia, REEF staff, and volunteers, REEF has been assessing lionfish densities in deep water habitats off Islamorada, FL. Along with habitat surveys, the team has deployed a hydrophone (which records underwater sounds including fish sounds) in a site with high densities of lionfish. The goal is to record lionfish communicating with each other and to determine their associated behavior. The team has also been deploying a Trident Underwater Drone donated by Sofar Ocean Technologies in collaboration with National Geographic Open Explorer to survey deep sites for lionfish in between dives. All research activities have occurred within NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary under permit. Financial support of this research 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).

We were also looking forward to partnering with Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium to host our 6th Annual Sarasota Lionfish Derby on July 13-15. Unfortunately, Tropical Storm Barry had other plans and inclement weather forced us to cancel the derby. Nevertheless, the lionfish culinary competition held at Mote still went on! Five chefs, representing Deep Sea Diner, Michael’s on East, Modern Events, Indigenous, and Mattison’s, used 850 lionfish to show off their culinary skills and wow visitors and judges with their tasty samples.

There is one more chance this year to participate in the 2019 REEF Derby Series. REEF’s 10th Annual Upper Keys Lionfish Derby and Festival, held at Postcard Inn in Islamorada, will take place Sept.13-15. Click here to register a team for the Upper Keys Derby. On derby day, spectators are invited to attend the festivities and sample some lionfish for free! On Sunday, Sept. 15, an outdoor environmental festival will be hosted along with scoring, raffles, games, dissection and fillet demos, and more. Local vendors, nonprofits, government agencies and environmentally minded artisans are invited to register a booth at this event. Space is limited, so sign up today. Click here for more information about booth space at the Upper Keys Derby.