This summer, divers and snorkelers from around the country came together to combat the invasive lionfish, vying for over $14,000 in total cash prizes. The series included derby events throughout Florida including Sarasota, the Upper Keys, Fort Lauderdale, and Palm Beach County, as well as Lionfish Culinary Competitions in conjunction with the Sarasota and Palm Beach County derbies. Derby events serve to educate the public about invasive species, gather important scientific information on lionfish populations, and promote a consumer market by providing the public with a chance to taste this delicacy, all of which are important factors in addressing this issue.
This year’s Summer Lionfish Derby Series brought in 2,112 invasive lionfish. Over the next year, these lionfish would have consumed somewhere between 14,789,260 and 3,662,991 prey fish-fish that are commercially, ecologically, and recreationally important. According to Dr. Stephanie Green, Oregon State University researcher, some sites in the Bahamas have seen 65-95% declines in native fish in a two-year period, when lionfish are present. Impacts to valuable food fish like grouper and snapper could cause damage to the economy and ecology of countries throughout the Tropical Western Atlantic. Overall, the average size of lionfish brought in seems to have decreased this year, indicating the success of derby events and ongoing removals.
The 2017 REEF Summer Lionfish Derby Series was made possible by Mote Marine Laboratory, 15th Street Fisheries, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Loggerhead Marinelife Center, Ocean Reef Conservation Association, the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, the Florida Park Service, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, ZooKeeper, and Whole Foods.
For complete derby results and information on additional lionfish derbies throughout the region, visit www.REEF.org/lionfish/derbies