Over the course of two days, 14 lionfish hunters descended on the reefs of southeast Florida to compete in REEF’s Miami Lionfish Derby presented by Whole Foods Market and hosted at the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science. Divers competed to bring in the most, smallest, and largest lionfish and win their share of over $6,500 in cash and prizes. By the end of the weekend, 309 lionfish had been removed.
Team Proweb/ Zookeeper took first place for most lionfish with 169 lionfish. Team Sharkbait finished second with 113 lionfish and team Frost Science Silky Sharks placed third with 26 fish.
The event also served to educate the public about invasive species issues, to gather important scientific information on lionfish populations, and to promote a consumer market by providing free samples of fresh lionfish ceviche.
Lionfish, native to the Indo-Pacific region, are an invasive species in the Tropical Western Atlantic and are causing significant negative impacts to native marine life throughout the region. According to Dr. Stephanie Green, an Oregon State University researcher, some sites in the Bahamas have seen 65-95% declines in native fish in a two-year period.
Impacts to valuable food fish like grouper and snapper could cause damage to the economy and ecology of countries in the invaded range. Thankfully, regular removals and events such as derbies have been found to significantly reduce lionfish populations at the local scale.
The Miami Lionfish Derby was the first in a series of six REEF organized derbies held throughout Florida (www.REEF.org/lionfish/derbies). The derby was made possible through support from the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science and sponsors including Whole Foods Market, The Ocean Reef Conservation Association, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, ZooKeeper LLC, and Divers Direct.