Few Weeks To Go In Already Record-Setting Lionfish Challenge

Aug 19, 2018

Nikkie Cox found this tagged lionfish off Franklin County.
Credit Nikkie Cox

There are a few weeks left to go in the state’s Lionfish Challenge. That’s an effort to rid Florida waters of the invasive species that has no natural predators and has a negative impact on wildlife.

The last day of the 2018 Lionfish Challenge is Labor Day. And, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokeswoman Amanda Nalley says it’s going well so far.

“We’ve had a record number of 678 people who have registered,” said Nalley. “So far, we’ve had over 14,000 lionfish removed as part of the program, and we expect those numbers to go up. A lot of people hold onto their lionfish tails, until they get a little bit closer to the end. So, hopefully we’ll be seeing these number shoot up in the last few weeks of the program.”

This year’s challenge also includes a new element: About 300 to 400 tagged lionfish, that are worth up to 5,000 dollars in prizes. Nalley says these specific lionfish were tagged underwater by the FWC at artificial reefs across the state.

“So, when out teams went underwater and tagged lionfish, they’re also down there removing other lionfish,” she added. “So, that’s an opportunity for them to continue those efforts in removal. Then, the other aspects of this is that yes, while we were leaving some fish in the water that were tagged, the goal here is to encourage a far greater removal than what was tagged by the public. And, that…you can just look at the numbers and see that it’s definitely been working in terms of getting people in the water and getting people to submit and remove lionfish.”

And, Nalley says another extra benefit of the tagged lionfish is tracking their location across the state.

So far, 54 tagged lionfish have been caught across the state. Nalley says a map is now available on the FWC’s website for the public to get a general idea of where to look for more. 

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.