KEY LARGO, Florida Keys — The Reef Environmental Education Foundation has announced its 2019 Winter Lionfish Derby Series, and participants are to convene Friday and Saturday, March 29-30, for one of two Key Largo editions.
Divers can take action and help preserve Keys reefs during this fun, competitive event to capture and remove as many non-native lionfish as possible from Keys waters.
The invasive species was introduced to Florida waters during the 1980s. Efforts to offset their growing populations include conservation through consumption.
Although commonly served as ceviche or sushi, lionfish fillets can be prepared like any other fish, and have been likened to halibut or grouper in texture and flavor. Keys restaurants often include lionfish as menu items.
Derby diver teams vie for prizes for capturing the most lionfish as well as the largest and smallest. Teams of two to four people can register for $120 per team.
A mandatory captains meeting for all team participants is set for 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 29, at REEF headquarters, mile marker 98.3 in the Overseas Highway median. Lionfish biology, ecology, impacts, safe handling and collecting techniques and derby rules are to be reviewed.
At sunrise Saturday, derby hunters can begin collecting lionfish by netting or spearing while on scuba, snorkeling or free diving. Participants can dive from a private vessel or with a professional dive operator.
At 5 p.m., the public is invited to watch derby scoring and awards at Sharkey’s Pub and Galley Restaurant, 522 Caribbean Drive. Other attractions are to include games, raffle prizes, lionfish filleting, dissection demonstrations and sample tastings.
Event information and registration: reef.org or 305-852-0030
Florida Keys diving: fla-keys.com/diving
The public is invited to watch derby scoring and awards, lionfish filleting, dissection demonstrations and sample tastings.