The Lionfish Challenge is underway, and it’s one of several efforts to rid Florida of the invasive species that has no natural predators and negatively impacts wildlife.
Normally, harvesters get rewarded for removing lionfish in general. But, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Spokeswoman Amanda Nalley says this year’s Lionfish challenge includes something new. Divers tagged six to eight lionfish each at 50 artificial reefs across the state. The reward for catching them? A cash prize up to $5,000. Nalley says it’s for a couple of reasons.
“1) to remove a lot more lionfish hopefully by encouraging the public to get out there and do this than we can remove,” she said. “2) While it won’t be something that we can use necessarily in a scientifically sound way, it will allow us some insight on lionfish and how they move. So, based on where we tagged these lionfish. Are we finding them on the same reef, for example?”
So far, five tagged fish have been caught in Escambia County. Meanwhile, Nalley says people can still sign up for the Lionfish Challenge on the FWC’s website. It kicked off during Saturday’s fourth annual Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day, where about 10,000 lionfish were caught in Florida.
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