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Entries in Lionfish challenge (4)

Friday
May192017

Lionfish Hunters Wanted!

Attention all lionfish hunters: The 2017 Lionfish Challenge begins tomorrow, May 20, on Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day. Remember to register online at MyFWC.com/Lionfish or sign up in person at the Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day Festival at Plaza de Luna in Pensacola May 20-21.

The 2017 Lionfish Challenge rewards recreational and commercial lionfish harvesters for their removal efforts with prizes and incentives. Once registered, participants email photos of their first 25 qualifying lionfish (or electronic trip tickets totaling at least 25 pounds sold for commercial harvesters) to Lionfish@MyFWC.com. Be sure to include the harvester name, the date harvested and your signature in the photo (written on a piece of paper next to the fish for example). Recreational category participants must submit any lionfish harvested in excess of the initial 25 to a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC)-approved checkpoint (list of locations available at MyFWC.com/Lionfish by clicking on “Lionfish Challenge”) or FWC-sponsored lionfish tournament (FWC staff must be present to verify). Commercial participants can continue to submit trip tickets via email. All participants who have an active Saltwater Products License and have commercial lionfish sales within the past year will automatically be placed in the commercial category.

Rewards for recreational and commercial participants include:

  • A commemorative coin to validate membership.
  • An event T-shirt.
  • Lionfish Hall of Fame recognition on the MyFWC.com website.
  • If qualified before July 26, the opportunity to take an additional spiny lobster per day during the 2017 sport season (July 26-27). Participants must have commemorative coin as proof of participation.

Participants may also qualify for additional prizes such as a reusable lionfish sting heat pack, customized neck gaiter, customized tumbler, and pole spear with grip kit.

The recreational and commercial harvesters who check in the most lionfish will be crowned Florida’s Lionfish King or Queen and Florida’s Commercial Champion, and both will be recognized at the 2017 Lionfish Safari Sept. 10 in St. Petersburg.

Once you’ve registered, don’t forget to join the FWC in celebrating the third annual Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day (Saturday, May 20) by attending one of six statewide festivals and tournaments.

Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day (the first Saturday after Mother’s Day each year) raises awareness about lionfish; a nonnative, invasive species that has a potential negative impact on native species and habitat.

Pensacola Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day Festival and Tournament

The third annual Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day Festival will be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 20-21 at Plaza de Luna, 900 S. Palafox St., Pensacola.

This event will include celebrity chef and fillet demonstrations, lionfish tastings, family-friendly games and activities, and more than 40 art, diving and conservation vendors.

 To participate in the tournament hosted by the Gulf Coast Lionfish Coalition, visit the Lionfish World Championship webpage at LionfishWorldChampionship.com.

 Check out the booths of our many sponsors including Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville, Whole Foods Market, iHeartMedia, Coast Watch Alliance, Visit Pensacola, Escambia County Division of Marine Resources, Florida Sea Grant, the city of Pensacola, Navarre Beach Marine Science Station, tournament host Gulf Coast Lionfish Coalition, Guy Harvey Magazine, SHELLArt, Dive Rite, ZooKeeper and Dive Pros.

 Statewide lionfish events

Can’t make the Pensacola festival and tournament? Find an event near you by scrolling over “Event Info” at the top of ReefRangers.com and clicking on “Statewide Events.”

  • Lion Tamer Tournament – Panama City Beach.
  • Destin Lionfish Tournament – Destin.
  • Sebastian Lionfish Fest – Sebastian.
  • REEF Lionfish Workshop and Collection – Big Pine Key.
  • Northeast Florida Lionfish Blast – Jacksonville.
  • FSDA Lionfish Calcutta –St. Petersburg.
  • FWC Exotic Pet Amnesty Day – Sanford – May 6.

Look for event updates at MyFWC.com/Lionfish by clicking on “Lionfish Derbies and Events.”

 Questions?

Contact the FWC Division of Marine Fisheries Management at 850-487-0554. For more on FWC’s Pet Amnesty Day, or if you have an exotic pet and need help finding it a new home, visit MyFWC.com/WildlifeHabitats and click on “Nonnative Species” and “Exotic Pet Amnesty Program.”

 

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Wednesday
Oct052016

Lionfish Challenge Closes With 16,609 Harvested

Participants killed 16,609 lionfish in Florida's Lionfish Challenge, which closed Sept. 30.

“The success of this program really shows what Florida’s residents and visitors can do when faced with a conservation challenge such as lionfish,” said Brian Yablonski, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) chairman.

Lionfish are a nonnative species that were first noted in Florida waters in the mid-80s and have since spread up the Atlantic coast and across the Gulf of Mexico. They are prolific and feed heavily on native fish, especially juveniles and smaller species. Human removal is the only way to keep their numbers in check.

The Lionfish Challenge rewarded participants who took 50 or more lionfish with a variety of incentives including a program T-shirt, a commemorative coin, the opportunity to take an additional spiny lobster per day during the two-day sport season and entry into raffle drawings for prizes such as Neritic polespears, $100 dive tank refills and fishing licenses.

The competition began on Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day, the first Saturday after Mother’s Day.

Volusia County resident David Garrett took the most lionfish with a total of 3,324. John Dickinson came in second with a total of 2,408 lionfish removed.

“I want the reefs to benefit from this and to save our native fish,” said David Garrett, who is a commercial fisherman.

Garrett will be officially crowned Lionfish King at the Nov. 16 Commission meeting in St. Petersburg. He will also receive a lifetime saltwater fishing license and be featured on the cover of the January 2017 Saltwater Regulations Publication.

Ninety-five people participated in the challenge from across the state and the southeastern United States.

The FWC would like to thank the 34 dive shops across Florida that supported this program by acting as checkpoints. Shops located in the Panhandle continue to participate in the Panhandle Pilot Program.

Panhandle Pilot Program

The Panhandle Pilot Program focuses on lionfish removal efforts off Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, Bay, Gulf and Franklin counties. For every 100 lionfish checked in from this seven-county region between May 2016 and May 2017, the harvester will be eligible to receive a tag allowing them to take either a red grouper or a cobia that is over the bag limit from state waters (all other regulations, including seasons and size limits, still apply). The state will issue up to a total of 100 red grouper and 30 cobia tags to successful participants in the pilot program. So far, 38 tags have been issued.

In addition, the first 10 persons or groups that check in 500 or more lionfish during this one-year period will be given the opportunity to name an artificial reef. Four teams have qualified to name an artificial reef so far, and two of the four have already been named.

Tuesday
Aug162016

Nearly 10,000 Lionfish Harvested in Florida Waters

With little more than a month left to go in Florida's Lionfish Challenge, divers have removed 9,216 of the exotic predator from state waters.

Since the May 14 kickoff, 68  have participated in the program that rewards divers for taking 50 or more lionfish. Of those, 23 also qualified for the Panhandle Pilot Program, which rewards participants for every 100 lionfish removed from Escambia through Franklin counties, where lionfish densities tend to be higher.

 David Garrett is in the lead for the Lionfish King title, with 1,262 harvested so far, followed by John McCain at 380.

Why the war on lionfish? Although about 18 inches is the maximum size in its nonnative range, the lionfish is a versatile, voracious predator that is gobbling up smaller native species, as well as juveniles of highly prized sport fish species. Additionally, as its population grows, it crowds native species out of their habitat.

Lionfish Challenge

Remove 50 or more lionfish between Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day (May 14, 2016) and the end of September to enter the Lionfish Challenge.

Rewards include the following:

  • a commemorative coin to mark membership
  • an event T-shirt
  • Lionfish Hall of Fame recognition on the MyFWC.com website
  • being entered in drawings to win prizes including fishing licenses, lionfish harvesting equipment, fuel cards and dive tank refills
  • and, the person who “checks in” the most lionfish will be crowned Florida’s Lionfish King or Queen and will receive a lifetime saltwater fishing license, have his or her photograph featured on the cover of the FWC’s January 2017 Saltwater Regulations publication, be prominently featured on MyFWC.com’s Lionfish Hall of Fame, and be recognized at the November 2016 FWC Commission meeting

How to Enter

Email photos of your first 50 qualifying lionfish to Lionfish@MyFWC.com and include the name of the harvester, the date harvested, your signature in the photo (written on a piece of paper next to the fish, for example) and your mailing address. You can also submit your first 50 at an FWC-approved checkpoint.

Go here to learn more.

Thursday
May192016

Pensacola Tournament Takes a Bite out of Lionfish Population

,

Participants removed 8,089 lionfish  in only two days at the May 14-15 Gulf Coast Lionfish Coalition Tournament out of Pensacola.

 More than 7,000 people (more than double last year’s numbers) attended the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day Festival , where visitors got to taste lionfish, see filet demonstrations, check out art and conservation booths and much more.

And if that wasn’t enough, Charles Meyling of Montgomery broke the state record for longest lionfish caught in Gulf waters when he brought in a 445-millimeter lionfish (about 18 inches. Previous record was 438 millimeters.

At FWC-supported events statewide that weekend and leading up to that weekend, another 5,978 lionfish were removed for a total of 14,067 statewide. By contrast, 2,975 lionfish were removed in 2015.

“These numbers are a great example of the agency’s efforts to get the public educated about and involved in lionfish removal,” said Jessica McCawley, Division of Marine Fisheries Management director. “Events like this one will encourage continued involvement in proactively and successfully removing lionfish.”

On a more cautious note, this huge increase in harvest also could reflect that populations of this voracious predator are rapidly growing, posing even more of a threat to native species, including snapper, grouper, and other sports fish.

Thanks to the growing interest in lionfish as a food fish, many lionfish harvested around the state will be sold commercially in places like New Orleans, Atlanta, Destin, in Florida Whole Foods, and by Edible Invaders in Pensacola.

Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day (first Saturday after Mother’s Day) was created by FWC commissioners to raise awareness about lionfish – nonnative, invasive species that have a potential negative impact on native species and

If you want to participate in the 2016 Lionfish Challenge or the Panhandle Pilot Program, remove lionfish, and get rewarded, go here.

Lionfish and other exotic pets that can no longer be cared for should never be released into Florida waters or lands. To learn more about how and where to surrender an exotic pet for adoption go here.

Statewide Lionfish Event Removal Totals:

655 – FSDA Lionfish Calcutta – St. Petersburg

3,478 – Northeast Florida Lionfish Blast – Jacksonville

727 – Lion Tamer Tournament – Panama City Beach

25 – Reef Environmental Education Foundation – Key Largo

31 – Sebastian Lionfish Fest – Sebastian

1,062 – Gulf Coast Lionfish Coalition Pre-Tournament - Pensacola