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Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and REEF to host Lionfish Tournaments for Scuba Divers

(DiverWire) Last year, the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and REEF presented a series of Lionfish tournaments (derbies) that offered prizes and awards for scuba divers who collected the invasive Lionfish during the events. Those events were so successful that the Sanctuary and REEF have announced dates for the 2011 events. Lionfish Derby

This year, more than $10,000 in cash and prizes will be awarded to the divers who bring in the most lionfish, largest lionfish, and smallest lionfish during the Sanctuary/REEF series of tournaments. Teams of up to four divers may register online at or pick up registration forms at participating derby venues. Along with dinner and raffle tickets, the $120 registration fee provides each team with a pair of puncture resistant gloves or a capture bag — important protection from lionfish spines.

Last year, nearly 700 lionfish were captured during three events throughout the Florida Keys. With the growing publicity and interest among the scuba diving community, organizers are anticipating large crowds for the three schedule tournaments in 2011.

“Anyone who appreciates the diversity of the Keys coral reef should be concerned about these invasive fish,” said Sean Morton, sanctuary superintendent. “Divers have been actively engaged in lionfish removal in the Keys since 2009 and these tournaments are a way to reward them for their dedication to the reef.”

The dates for the 2011 tournaments are:Lionfish caught

May 14 — Fiesta Key Resort, Long Key, Fla.
August 20 — Coconuts Restaurant, Key Largo, Fla.
November 5 — Hurricane Hole Marina and Restaurant, Key West, Fla.

Each tournament also includes a detailed awareness and training briefing and lionfish tasting. NOAA has developed an “Eat Lionfish” campaign that brings together fishing communities, wholesalers, and chefs in an effort to broaden U.S. consumers’ awareness of this delicious invader. In 2010, REEF published “The Lionfish Cookbook” which includes 45 recipes and instructions on how to collect and prepare the fish.


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