The Florida Keys has been invaded by the red lionfish (Pterois volitans), an invasive species from the Indo-Pacific, that is popular in the aquarium fish trade. The venomous fish has wreaked havoc on local reef fish populations, and in an effort to control the species, the local dive community, the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, and Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) have been running lionfish contests that encourage divers to capture these invasive predators.
Scuba divers, free divers and snorkelers in the Florida Keys are encouraged to enter lionfish derbies, in which the divers seek out and capture lionfish for cash prizes and other awards. These one-day derbies award prizes to teams that capture the largest, the smallest and the most lionfish. Prior to these derbies, REEF holds training, research and awareness workshops that detail how to properly collect and remove these fish. The organization also sponsors monthly contests that awards prizes to those who capture the most lionfish each month. Lionfish are also cooked after the derbies for tasting, which is open to the public.
The next lionfish derbies in Florida will take place June 30, 2012, in Broward County at the 15th Street Fisheries; August 18, 2012, at Sailfish Marina in West Palm Beach; and September 8, 2012, at Coconuts Restaurant in Key Largo. A derby will also take place in Abaco, Bahamas, on June 16, 2012, at Green Turtle Cay.
Visit Reef.org for a registration form.