Still Time to Register for Lower Keys Lionfish Derby: Over $3,000 in Cash and Prizes Up for Grabs

Nov. 08, 2010

On November 13, divers capturing invasive lionfish in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary waters could be rewarded for their efforts as part of a one-day tournament hosted by the sanctuary in partnership with the Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF).

Interested teams of up to four divers can register online at A $100 registration fee provides each team with a pair of puncture-resistant gloves and two tickets to the tournament banquet. Cash and prizes will be awarded for the most lionfish caught as well as the biggest and smallest fish captured.

On the day of the tournament, divers will be allowed to collect lionfish using hand nets or spearfishing gear in areas of the sanctuary where fishing and spearfishing is allowed. All team captains must attend a briefing on Friday, November 12, at 7pm. Lionfish collection begins at sunrise on Saturday and all fish must be checked in for scoring at Hurricane Hole, Key West, by 6:30pm. Lionfish tastings begin at 6pm and the awards banquet starts at 7pm.

lionfish caught during the derby

Zach Harshbarger from Key West, FL, holds up his catch – a lionfish that measured over 12 inches in length (30.5 centimeters), making it not only the largest fish caught at the Key West derby, but the largest fish caught during all three derbies.

Download high-resolution version.

REEF and Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary have been working with the Florida Keys dive community to remove invasive lionfish since early 2009, but this series of lionfish tournaments is the first time a bounty has been set on the marine invader in the Keys. More than 550 lionfish have been removed from the Keys during the first two lionfish tournaments in the series, held in the upper and middle Keys.

Scientists are concerned about the rapid population growth of lionfish in Keys waters and their lack of a natural predator in the Atlantic. Lionfish are known to feed on commercially and ecologically important fish species – including snapper, grouper and shrimp – and can disrupt the balance of the marine ecosystem.

For complete tournament rules information, go to

Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary protects 2,900 square miles of critical marine habitat, including coral reef, hard bottom, sea grass meadow, mangrove communities and sand flats. NOAA and the state of Florida manage the sanctuary.

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