Florida Keys Lionfish Roundups Continue to Raise Awareness, Aid Scientific Research

Registration open for tournaments in Key Largo and Key West

August 8, 2011

Two lionfish derbies remain in the 2011 series hosted by Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF). The upcoming tournaments will be held August 20 at Coconuts Restaurant, Key Largo, Fla.; and November 5 at Hurricane Hole Marina and Restaurant, Key West, Fla.

Teams of up to four divers may register online at www.reef.org/lionfish/derbies. Dive teams will compete for most, largest, and smallest lionfish, hoping for a chance at more than $6,500 in cash and prizes. Since 2010, four Florida Keys lionfish derbies have removed more than 1,200 lionfish from sanctuary waters, and reached countless divers and residents with information on this marine invader.

After being judged for the competition, lionfish are weighed and measured by scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey, and their stomach contents and ear bones (otoliths) taken for further analysis. These samples help scientists learn more about lionfish genetics and growth, as well as impacts to native marine life in the Keys.

Event organizers also gather information about where the lionfish were captured and in what types of habitats. In the Atlantic, lionfish have been found everywhere from the mangrove shallows to depths of 1,000 feet. Learning more about their preferred habitats could help sanctuary and reef managers focus their control strategies and research.

Each tournament also includes a detailed awareness and training briefing and lionfish tasting. NOAA has developed an “Eat Lionfish” campaign that brings together fishing communities, wholesalers, and chefs in an effort to broaden U.S. consumers’ awareness of this delicious invader. In 2010, REEF published “The Lionfish Cookbook” which includes 45 recipes and instructions on how to collect and prepare the fish.

The Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) is a 501 c (3) marine conservation organization dedicated to protecting and preserving marine environments. REEF has been leading lionfish research, education and control efforts throughout the invaded region. For more information visit www.REEF.org.

Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary protects 2,900 square nautical miles of critical marine habitat, including coral reef, hard bottom, sea grass meadows, mangrove communities and sand flats. NOAA and the state of Florida manage the sanctuary. Visit us online at www.floridakeys.noaa.gov or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/floridakeysnoaagov.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Visit us online at www.noaa.gov or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/usnoaagov.