Lionfish and festivals and reward programs

Join the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) in celebrating the third annual Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day (Saturday, May 20) by attending a festival, a tournament or by participating in the 2017 Lionfish Challenge removal incentive program.

Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day (the first Saturday after Mother’s Day each year) raises awareness about lionfish; a nonnative, invasive species that has a potential negative impact on native species and habitat.

Learn more about one of the many upcoming lionfish removal events and opportunities below.

Pensacola Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day Festival and Tournament

The third annual Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day Festival will be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 20-21 at Plaza de Luna, 900 S. Palafox St., Pensacola.

This event will include celebrity chef and fillet demonstrations, lionfish tastings, family-friendly games and activities, and more than 40 art, diving and conservation vendors.

To participate in the tournament hosted by the Gulf Coast Lionfish Coalition, visit the Lionfish World Championship webpage at

Check out the booths of our many sponsors including Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville, Whole Foods Market, iHeartMedia, Coast Watch Alliance, Visit Pensacola, Escambia County Division of Marine Resources, Florida Sea Grant, the city of Pensacola, Navarre Beach Marine Science Station, tournament host Gulf Coast Lionfish Coalition, Guy Harvey Magazine, SHELLArt, Dive Rite, ZooKeeper, and Dive Pros.

Have an artistic child in your life? Send their masterpieces in to the Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day Mail Art contest by May 10. The theme is “Protect our Native Fishes from Lionfish” and all drawings, collages, paintings or photos are welcome. Mail entries to Escambia County Marine Resources, 3363 West Park Place, Pensacola, FL 32505. The contest is open to students from elementary to high school. Winners will receive snorkeling gear and lionfish swag. Email Shelly Marshall at to learn more.

Statewide lionfish events

Can’t make the Pensacola festival and tournament? Find an event near you by scrolling over “Event Info” at the top of and clicking on ”Statewide Events.”

Lion Tamer Tournament – Panama City Beach.
Destin Lionfish Tournament – Destin.
Sebastian Lionfish Fest – Sebastian.
REEF Lionfish Workshop and Collection – Big Pine Key.
Northeast Florida Lionfish Blast – Jacksonville.
FSDA Lionfish Calcutta – St. Petersburg.
FWC Exotic Pet Amnesty Day – Sanford – May 6.
Look for event updates at by clicking on “Lionfish Derbies and Events.”

Lionfish Challenge

Recreational and commercial lionfish hunters are invited to get rewarded for their lionfish removal efforts by participating in FWC’s revamped Lionfish Challenge. The program starts Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day (May 20) and will end on Labor Day (Sept. 4). New this year, lionfish hunters can participate in either a recreational or commercial category (all participants who have an active Saltwater Products License and who have commercial lionfish sales within the past year must participate in the commercial category).

Rewards for recreational and commercial participants include:

A commemorative coin to mark membership.
An event T-shirt.
Lionfish Hall of Fame recognition on the website.
If qualified before July 26, the opportunity to take an additional spiny lobster per day during the 2017 sport season (July 26-27).
Participants may also qualify for additional prizes such as a reusable lionfish sting heat pack, customized neck gaiter, customized tumbler, and pole spear with grip kit.

The recreational and commercial harvesters who check in the most lionfish will be crowned Florida’s Lionfish King or Queen and Florida’s Commercial Champion and both will be recognized at the 2017 Lionfish Safari Sept. 10 in St. Petersburg.

To enter the program, participants must register online at Registration opens May 8.

After registration, participants may email photos of their first 25 qualifying lionfish (or trip tickets totaling at least 25 pounds sold for commercial harvesters) to Be sure to include the name of the harvester, the date harvested and your signature in the photo (written on a piece of paper next to the fish for example). Participants in the recreational category must bring the tails of any lionfish harvested in excess of the initial 25 to an FWC-approved checkpoint (list will be available May 20 on by clicking on “Lionfish Challenge”).


Contact the FWC Division of Marine Fisheries Management at 850-487-0554. For more on FWC’s Pet Amnesty Day, or if you have an exotic pet and need help finding it a new home, visit and click on “Nonnative Species” and “Exotic Pet Amnesty Program.”