Residents and visitors across Florida enjoyed another weekend of learning about and helping remove lionfish as they participated in events during the third annual Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day, May 20 (first Saturday after Mother’s Day). More than 4,000 people attended the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) two-day festival in Pensacola, where visitors got to taste lionfish prepared by celebrity chefs, watch fillet demonstrations, participate in family-friendly games, visit art and conservation booths and much more. Despite three statewide tournaments being cancelled due to weather, over 12,000 lionfish were removed from Florida waters, including 3,868 lionfish that were removed during two days of rough weather from the Pensacola-based Lionfish World Championship.
“Those that are passionate about removing lionfish from Florida waters really showed their dedication this weekend,” said Jessica McCawley, director of FWC’s Division of Marine Fisheries Management. “The weather was not ideal, and yet the festivals were still busy with people excited to learn about and taste lionfish. We always want to encourage safety first and foremost, and we’re glad everyone was able to safely travel offshore to remove a significant number of lionfish.”
The Lionfish Challenge, a removal incentive program, also started May 20, and runs through Sept. 4. Nearly 150 people have already registered to participate in the statewide Challenge, which rewards lionfish harvesters with prizes such as T-shirts, tumblers, pole spears, an extra spiny lobster per day during the two-day sport season, and much more. Think you have what it takes to be crowned the next Lionfish King/Queen or Commercial Champion? Sign up and learn more today by visiting MyFWC.com/Lionfish.
Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day was created by FWC Commissioners to raise awareness about lionfish – a nonnative, invasive species that have a potential negative impact on native species and habitat.
The FWC thanks all of the sponsors and organizations across the state that helped make this Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day event a success.
Remember, lionfish and other exotic pets that can no longer be cared for should never be released into Florida waters or lands. To learn more about where to surrender an exotic pet for adoption, visit MyFWC.com/WildlifeHabitats and click on “Nonnative Species” and “Exotic Pet Amnesty Program.”
Statewide Lionfish Events Removal Totals:
3,868 – Lionfish World Championship – Pensacola (plus 150 submitted late).
2,175 – Lionfish World Championship Pre-Tournament – Pensacola.
4,618 – Northeast Florida Lionfish Blast – Jacksonville (monthlong event).
929 – Lion Tamer Tournament – Panama City Beach (plus another 354 removed prior to the event).
72 – Force-E Scuba Centers Lionfish Removal Day – Pompano.
Cancelled – Reef Environmental Education Foundation – Key Largo.
Postponed – Sebastian Lionfish Fest – Sebastian.
Cancelled – Florida Skin Divers Association Lionfish Calcutta – St. Petersburg.
Cancelled – Destin Lionfish Tournament – Destin.