We never tire of hearing about new initiatives to eradicate this introduced species, and like the way the folks in Florida are thinking outside the box:
Ladies and gentlemen, behold an opportunity to become maritime royalty. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is hosting the Lionfish Challenge, a statewide hunting competition intended to encourage divers to capture, kill and eat the beguiling beauties, which have been invading western Atlantic waters and gobbling up native species for at least two decades. The title of Lionfish King or Queen goes to whoever captures the most lionfish by Sept.
Anyone can enter, as long as the fish are captured off Florida’s shores. During the first weekend, participants brought in more than 14,000 of the eye-catching but unwelcome fish — about five times as many as during the same weekend last year, according to the organizers. Participants may do as they wish with the captured fish. Some have ended up in supermarkets and on menus, via partners like Edible Invaders. Others have been donated to high school students researching lionfish diets.
With venomous spines that look like feathers and colorful patterns, lionfish — native to the South Pacific and Indian Oceans — can be popular aquarium eye candy. But they become expensive guests, reproducing rapidly and snacking on other tank inhabitants. The discarding of unwanted lionfish off the coast of Miami and in the Caribbean in the 1980s and 1990s is believed to have kicked off an invasion that threatens marine ecosystems from Brazil to North Carolina.
The conservation commission designed the challenge to up the ante of traditional lionfish removal and tournaments, in a manner similar to what has been done with the state’s annual Python Challenge. That event targets invasive Burmese pythons.
Consideration for the crown of Lionfish King or Queen requires the removal of at least 50 lionfish, with photographic evidence. After 50, participants must drop off tails in sandwich bags at statewide checkpoints.
“Lionfish are best taken by spear and hand-held nets. They are rarely taken successfully on hook and line,” the commission advises. This means diving skills are essential to winning the contest.
While a government-endorsed killing competition may rub some the wrong way, there’s consensus that it’s a choice between lionfish and reefs…
Read the whole article here.