In spite of Tropical Storm Sally’s unexpected appearance over south Florida, 23 teams brought in 1,321 invasive lionfish during the 2020 Upper Keys Lionfish Derby – the most fish ever harvested at a REEF Lionfish Derby held in the Florida Keys. Teams were permitted to fish anywhere in Florida, from sunrise to sunset on Friday, Sept. 11 and Saturday, Sept. 12. More than $4,000 in cash and prizes was awarded to teams who brought in the most, largest, and smallest lionfish.
2020 marked the 11th annual REEF Lionfish Derby held in the Upper Florida Keys. Due to COVID-19, this year’s event was adapted to include two contactless lionfish drop-off stations – one at the REEF Campus in Key Largo and the other at Mote Marine Laboratory in Summerland Key. Although the event did not include any public festivities, plenty of photos and live video footage were shared on social media, including a pre-derby lionfish collecting and handling workshop, lionfish scoring, dissections, and even a cooking demo by Chef Allen Susser. The awards presentation was also conducted virtually and streamed live.
The “Most Lionfish” category included the competitive Apex Predators division, as well as the Reef Defenders division for more casual lionfish hunters. Cash prizes were awarded for first through fifth place in the Apex Predators division. Team Bottle Buddies led the Apex Predators with 295 lionfish. Team Forever Young finished second with 254 lionfish, and team Finn-Atic Fish Co. placed third with 242 lionfish. Fourth place went to team Florida Man with 162 lionfish, and team Pain Killer placed fifth with 141 lionfish. In the Reef Defenders division, team Squid INK won first place with 51 lionfish. Team Totally Working brought in 28 lionfish for second place, and team Pterois Pterror took third place in the division with 17 lionfish. Prizes were also awarded for first through third place in the largest and smallest lionfish categories. The largest lionfish of the derby measured 410 mm (just over 16 inches) and was harvest by team Forvever Young, while the smallest lionfish was 60 mm (approximately 2.3 inches), harvested by team Florida Man. Full results from the 2020 Upper Keys Lionfish Derby are posted online at www.REEF.org/2020derby.
The 2020 Upper Keys Lionfish Derby was possible thanks to the following sponsors: Ocean Reef Conservation Association, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Postcard Inn Resort & Marina, Mote Marine Laboratory, Sharkey’s Sharkbite Grill, and The Weekly Newspapers. Activities occurred within NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary under permit.
REEF Lionfish Derbies educate the public about invasive species, gather important scientific information on lionfish populations, and promote a consumer market for lionfish. Regular removals and public events such as derbies have been found to significantly reduce lionfish populations on a local scale. The 12th annual Florida Keys-based REEF lionfish derby, the Keys Lionfish Derby and Festival is scheduled for Sept. 12, 2021, at Postcard Inn Resort and Marina in Islamorada. For more information about REEF Lionfish Derbies, visit < href="http://www.reef.org/lionfish-derbies">www.REEF.org/lionfish-derbies.