Fighting Back Lionfish for Invasive Species Awareness Week

“We’re going to win this one,” said Doug, an instructor at the Islamorada Dive Center, as he peered into the cooler. “I have a good feeling.”

It was a balmy February afternoon in the Florida Keys and excitement was high. Since dawn, teams of divers had been scouring reefs with one target in mind—lionfish—but this is not your average fishing tournament.

The Facts

Originally from the Indo-Pacific, lionfish are one of the most destructive invasive species in the Western Hemisphere (celebrate National Invasive Species Awareness Week). As voracious predators and prolific breeders (one female can produce over two million eggs per year), lionfish are wreaking havoc throughout the Western Atlantic, Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico.

Fortunately, ocean lovers are fighting back.

This time every year, the Reef Environmental Education Foundation hosts the Winter Lionfish Derby, an all-day event where teams use spears and nets to collect as many lionfish as possible and compete for a slew of prizes. Since 2009, more than 14,830 lionfish have been removed as a result of REEF Derbies, and it’s making a difference—studies in the Bahamas suggest that derbies can reduce local lionfish populations by about 75 percent.

The Frenzy

The year I attended, —> Read More Here


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