The threat of invasive lionfish in Caribbean and western Atlantic waters seems overwhelming. These feisty fish eat native species at a rapid rate, have few local predators, reproduce quickly and can’t be caught en masse.
But divers are doing their part in the region, especially at the annual Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) Lionfish Derby Series. And the effort’s made a difference: divers have removed more than 21,000 lionfish since 2010 at these events, including 2,500 last year.
REEF’s 2018 lionfish derby series hits seven locations in Florida, from the Keys to the Panhandle. The events are presented by Whole Foods Market, a supermarket chain that sells lionfish at many of its locations. More than $40,000 in cash and prizes is up for grabs at the events that run from late March through the summer (see calendar below).
The event — which “serve to educate the public, provide samples for researchers, and encourage market development, on top of removing thousands of ecologically devastating lionfish,” per REEF — will also include culinary events, chef competitions and demonstrations. Visit REEF’s website for more information.
• March 31: Winter Lionfish Derby at Sharkey’s Pub and Galley, Key Largo
• June 8-10: Miami Lionfish Derby at the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum
• July 6-8 Sarasota Lionfish Derby at Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium
• July 13-14: Fort Lauderdale Lionfish Derby at 15th Street Fisheries
• August 3-5: Palm Beach County Lionfish Derby at Loggerhead Marinelife Center
• August 11-13: Jacksonville Lionfish Derby at Beach Marine
• September 14-16: Upper Keys Lionfish Derby at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park