The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has released the final tally for the 2016 Lionfish Challenge: a total of 16,609 of the invasive species were removed from Florida waters.
“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, FWC’s chairman, in an Oct. 4 release.
The Lionfish Challenge, which rewards divers for the number of lionfish they remove, began in May and came to an end Sept. 30. The contest is designed to increase awareness of the invasive species, which pose a serious threat to the native marine environment, and to encourage removal of the fish.
The winner of the challenge was David Garrett, a Volusia County commercial fisherman. Garrett removed 3,324 lionfish and will be crowned Lionfish King at the FWC’s Nov. 16 meeting in St. Petersburg; he will also receive a lifetime saltwater fishing license and be featured on the cover of the January 2017 issue of Saltwater Regulations Publication.
The second place winner was John Dickinson, who removed 2,408 lionfish during the contest.
To read about efforts to design an effective lionfish trap, read “Researchers Encouraged by Local Lionfish Trap Tests,” and “Building a Better Lionfish Trap.”