Florida will host competition to kill invasive lionfish

Posted April 28, 2016

FLORIDA — The State of Florida is no stranger to invasive species. And because many of these uninvited animals are wreaking havoc on the local ecology, conservation officers in Florida arrange annual events like the Python Challenge to encourage people to get involved in the eradication efforts.

The lionfish, also known as the devil firefish, is the latest species to be targeted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. This vibrantly colored fish has up to 18 venomous spines, and it is having a devastating effect on Florida’s native reef fish.

According to the official website for the derby, the action kicks off next month and will be highlighted by a Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day on May 16. Any participants who harvest at least 50 lionfish during the competition will get a commemorative coin, an event T-shirt and inclusion in the Lionfish Hall of Fame on the FWC website.

The will also be drawings for prizes like fuel cards, fishing licenses, lionfish harvesting equipment and dive tank refills.

The competitor who harvests the most lionfish during the contest period will be named Florida’s lionfish king or queen. What comes with such a lofty honor? The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will bestow upon the winner a lifetime saltwater fishing license and their photograph will adorn the cover of the Commission’s 2017 saltwater regulations publication.

As an added bonus, those who harvest 500 or more lionfish within a year will be given a truly unique opportunity. Not only will they be enshrined in the FWC Lionfish Hall of Fame, but these elite lionfish catchers will be given the opportunity to name one of Florida’s artificial reefs.

“Innovative programs like these are a great way to generate public involvement and interest in controlling the lionfish population," FWC Chairman Brian Yablonski said in a news release. “Those that remove lionfish not only get rewarded for their efforts, but they also get the experience of helping manage Florida’s fisheries. In addition, involving Florida’s residents and visitors helps us gather better data to continuously evaluate and improve our approach to invasive species control.”

With so many unique prizes on the line, organizers hope the event will attract participants and help draw attention to the ongoing threat posed by invasive species.

Grant Olsen joined the team in 2012. He covers outdoor adventures, travel, product reviews and other interesting things. He is also the author of the book "Rhino Trouble." You can contact him at


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