Scuba Diving Photos
Encounters: Celebrate, American-Style
REEF's lionfish derbies target the invasive species, where divers compete for prizes while helping to control the population.
For many of us, diving is as much about buddy time as bottom time. And from coast to coast, there’s always a reason for the lot of you to don your gear for a good-conscience cause, from rallying against lionfish to scooping up trash during a favorite local shore dive. In the name of paying it forward, venture forth.
Scientists and divers team up in areas affected by invasive lionfish — Florida is ground zero in the U.S. — to target this invasive species that has a turbo-charged reproduction rate. (A single female lionfish can lay 30,000 eggs per month, and the voracious creatures are responsible for decimating reef-fish populations.) Get a team together for a derby to help control the population while striving for prizes during these fun competitions.
“Derby weekends are intense,” says Keri Kenning, communications manager at Reef Environmental Education Foundation, an organizer of lionfish derbies. “We measure every single fish that comes in down to the millimeter.” Teams are scored on the number of fish caught; points are given for the largest and smallest specimens too. REEF’s events are usually a two-day affair, with captains meetings held the night before the big hunt.
“It’s usually a collegial, jolly atmosphere, where the collective group is fired up and energized about going out to remove lionfish the following day,” Kenning says. Afterward, there’s lots to eat — lionfish ceviche, anyone? — and crowds gather to celebrate the cause.
When to Go REEF sponsors several lionfish derbies throughout the year in the Florida Keys, South Florida and the Bahamas. Summer 2013 events include derbies on July 27 in Fort Lauderdale, Aug. 17 in Palm Beach and Sept. 14 in Key Largo (reef.org/ lionfish/derbies).
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