Weather and a postponement contributed to a low turnout for the Middle Keys lionfish tournament, but one lucky team took home $1,700.
The October 23 tournament in Marathon, organized by the Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) and Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, was the second of three Keys-based lionfish roundups aimed at reducing the population of the invasive Indo-Pacific red lionfish in sanctuary waters. The five participating teams captured 21 lionfish during the one-day event out of Marathon, bringing the total number of lionfish captured during the tournaments thus far to 555.
The winning team, “Team Frapper,” hailing from Vero Beach, brought in 12 lionfish and also caught the largest fish, which measured slightly more than 7.5 inches. The “Lion Hunters” captured the smallest fish of the day – measuring almost 4.5 inches. The Lion Hunters, who traveled to the tournament from Melbourne, Fl., swept the ‘smallest’ fish category and brought in the second largest number of lionfish, netting them $1300 in cash and prizes. A local team, “Marathon Boatyard” led by Joe Bauman, took third place and received a $250 gift certificate to Divers Direct.
The third and final 2010 Keys lionfish tournament will be held November 13 at Hurricane Hole Marina, in Key West. Divers and snorkelers interested in participating may register online at http://www.reef.org. A $100 registration fee provides each team with a pair of puncture resistant gloves — important protection from lionfish spines — and two tickets to the tournament banquet.
Growing populations of lionfish off the southeast U.S. and Caribbean are affecting native reef fish communities and could hamper stock rebuilding efforts. Lionfish have no known predators and consume commercially and ecologically important fish species.
For complete results and derby information go to http://www.REEF.org/lionfish.
Lad Akins, REEF Director of Operations, measured each lionfish as they were hauled into Keys Fisheries Saturday during the second of three tournaments aimed at eradicating the invasive species.
Bob Hickerson and Maria Andreu, of “Team Frapper,” hailed from Vero Beach. They hauled in 12 lionfish and also caught the largest fish that measured slightly more than 7.5 inches.