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First Florida Keys Lionfish Derby of 2011 nets 530 invasive lionfish

(DiverWire) Over the weekend, 10 teams hit the water in search of lionfish as part of the first REEF/Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary lionfish derby of the season. A lively mix of male and female divers came to Long Key for the first of three scheduled events. Participants ranged from teens to retired executives and hailed from Miami all the way to the lower Keys.

In total, event organizers reported that more than 500 lionfish were captured and turned in at the conclusion of the day. Each team was asked to collect lionfish in a designated area and check in at the scoring station by 6:30pm at the host sight, Fiesta Key Resort in the middle part of the Florida Keys.

The process was efficient and streamlined.  REEF handled the paperwork and did the count and measuring per team.  The next table was USGS for weigh in results, they also performed sampling dissections to gather information on stomach content, sex and age.  As unsettling as it was to see the types and sizes of fish coming out of the stomachs of the lionfish, it served as a definitive reminder of why everyone had gathered for the event.

The teams then went to the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary tables, where fish were filleted for the evening’s scrumptious appetizers of fried lionfish bites and lionfish wrapped in bacon.  The remaining fish went to REEF for further research.

As statics were being entered into the database, everyone waited for results to be posted in categories of largest, smallest and most collected.  Chris Rose and Adam Vila of Team Strategery watched the board closely.  In the last week, they devoted a few days on the water scoping out sites and marking GPS numbers to plan the attack.  As avid members of the South Florida Freedivers club, they would not be using SCUBA.  The due diligence paid off.  Hitting 75 spots they came in with the top count of 158 lionfish and received a grand prize of $1,000.00 cash.

They also placed third in the smallest fish category and got a $100.00 Divers Direct Gift Certificate.

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