KEY LARGO, FLA. – Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) will host its 11th Annual Upper Keys Lionfish Derby, Thursday Sept. 10 through Sunday, Sept. 13. During this socially-distant event, divers will compete to remove as many invasive lionfish as possible. Cash prizes will be awarded to the teams who harvest the most, largest, and smallest lionfish. The “most lionfish” category will include the competitive Apex Predators division, as well as the Reef Defenders division, intended for more casual lionfish hunters. Teams may choose to register in either division.
Teams of two to four people may register online. Derby registration is $50 per team through Aug. 30, $75 per team through Sept. 6, and $100/team through Sept. 10. A mandatory Captains’ Meeting will be held at 5:30 PM Sept. 10. The meeting with cover lionfish ecology, safe collecting and handling techniques, permits, and regulations.
Derby participants can hunt lionfish from sunrise to sunset on Friday, Sept. 11 and Saturday, Sept. 12. Lionfish may be collected by netting or spearing while diving, snorkeling, or free diving; following all federal and state fishing regulations. Participants can dive from a private vessel or with a dive operator. Key Dives in Islamorada and Rainbow Reef in Key Largo are offering lionfish hunting charters on Saturday and Sunday. Interested participants should contact dive shops directly to book dives.
Two contactless lionfish drop-off stations will be staffed throughout the weekend. Stations are located at the REEF Campus in Key Largo and Mote Marine Laboratory in Summerland Key. All fish must be dropped off no later than 10 AM on Sept. 13.
Lionfish, native to the Indo-Pacific, are an invasive species in the Tropical Western Atlantic and are causing significant negative impacts to native marine life throughout the region. Impacts to valuable food fish like grouper and snapper could cause severe ecological and economic damage to countries in the invaded range. Regular removals and events such as derbies have been found to significantly reduce lionfish populations at the local scale and engage the community to continue supporting the effort and management. To date, more than 40,000 lionfish have been removed from REEF-supported derbies.
2020 Upper Keys Lionfish Derby sponsors include Ocean Reef Conservation Association, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Postcard Inn Beach Resort and Marina, and Mote Marine Laboratory. All activities occur within NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary under permit.
For more information, visit www.REEF.org/2020derby or call 305-852-0030.