Sarasota Lionfish Derby Reports Delicious Success

Arts & Culture

On July 7 and 8, divers boarded their boats, plunged into the Gulf of Mexico and removed 545 invasive lionfish during the fifth annual Sarasota Lionfish Derby, which concluded yesterday, July 8, at Mote Marine Laboratory. The Sarasota derby, part of REEF’s 2018 Lionfish Derby Series, was organized by Mote and Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF), which helps study and address the lionfish invasion. Non-native lionfish have invaded Atlantic waters from South America to North Carolina, including the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, and lionfish derbies are part of an effort to reduce populations while monitoring and studying the invasion. The Sarasota derby drew six teams that contended to catch the most lionfish, the largest lionfish and the smallest lionfish in Gulf of Mexico waters ranging from Collier to Escambia County. On July 8, cash prizes ranging from $150 to $1,000 were awarded to teams who won or placed in each category. During the derby, top local chefs from Indigenous Restaurant, Michael's on East, Mattison's Forty-One, Modern Events and the Deep Sea Diner prepared dishes for a lionfish cooking competition. The public also enjoyed a raffle and watched lionfish be counted and measured by REEF staff and dissected by Mote scientists. Collecting data on local lionfish populations year after year helps scientists study population dynamics, behavior and adaptations over time.

Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium

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