A total of 19,167 of the spiny invasive predators were removed from Gulf and Atlantic waters as part of the Emerald Coast Open, which coincided with the fifth annual Lionfish Removal and Awareness Festival at AJ’s Seafood & Oyster Bar and HarborWalk Village in Destin May 18 and 19.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) worked closely with the Emerald Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau on both the tournament and the festival.
This tournament may be over, but there are still chances to win prizes through the FWC’s 2019 Lionfish Challenge, a removal incentive program that started May 18 on Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day and runs through Labor Day, Sept. 2. This year, participants who submit the largest and smallest lionfish may be eligible to receive up to $3,000 in cash prizes thanks to support from sponsors: American Sportfishing Association, Yamaha Motor Company, Marine Industries Association of Palm Beach County and National Marine Manufacturers Association. Find more details on how to get rewarded for your harvest at FWCReefRangers.com.
Remember, 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 where to surrender an exotic pet for adoption, visit MyFWC.com/WildlifeHabitats and click on “Nonnative Species” and “Exotic Pet Amnesty Program.”
Emerald Coast Open stats:
Total removed: 19,167
Total removed May 18 and 19: 14,119
Pre-tournament removals starting Feb. 1: 5,048
Winning Team: Florida Man removed 2,241 lionfish
Largest lionfish: 17.32 inches by team Killer B’s
Smallest lionfish: 2.95 inches by team Diamond Diver
Total number of participants: 189