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Surpassing Records, FWC Hails Latest Lionfish Removal Effort As Great Success

Alicia Wellman
FWC's Flickr
Charles Meyling of Alabama is now holds the state record for longest lionfish caught in the Gulf waters. He caught it during the Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day in Pensacola.

Florida wildlife officials are their latest lionfish removal effort as a great success.

This past Mother’s Day also marked the second annual Lionfish Removal and Awareness Festival and Tournament in Pensacola. More than 7,000 people attended the event—more than doubling last year’s turnout.

But, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokeswoman Amanda Nalley says there were also events throughout the state—that allowed officials to break even more records.

“This year’s Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day was a great success,” she said. “We had more than 8,000 removed from the Florida waters off Pensacola, and more than 14,000 lionfish removed statewide.”

Nalley says organizers thought they’d been successful last year, but after killing about 14,000 of the invasive species this year, they’ve got a new set of standards.

“Last year, we had just shy of 3,000 lionfish removed statewide,” she added. “So, this is a huge jump in numbers in terms of how many lionfish were removed this year. What to attribute that to, we don’t know 100 percent, but we hope that it has a lot to do with our efforts and getting the word about lionfish and encouraging removal.”

Nalley says she’s glad a number of people interested in lionfish removal are coming from other states as well. In fact, one Alabama man broke the state record of 438 millimeters for the longest lionfish caught in the Gulf waters.

“At Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day in Pensacola, Chares Meyling of Montgomery, took in a lionfish that was 445 millimeters,” she stated. “So, there’s definitely interest in other states in lionfish.”

She says a lot of the lionfish caught at the event were also sold to cities in other states, like New Orleans and Atlanta. Florida Whole Foods chain and Edible Invaders in Pensacola known for its lionfish dips were also sold lionfish by the state. In addition, Nalley says three Hillsborough county high school students will receive lionfish to study its diet using DNA. The nonnative species negatively impacts Florida wildlife because it has no natural predators.

Nalley says it’s also her agency’s hope that more people will become aware of the benefits of lionfish removal.

“A big part of this is reaching out to those who don’t dive and making sure that they’re aware that this is an issue, making sure they’re requesting these at restaurants as a food dish,” she concluded.

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

Sascha Cordner has more than ten years of public radio experience. It includes working at NPR member station WUFT-FM in Gainesville for several years. She's worked in both radio and TV, serving in various capacities as a reporter, producer and anchor. She's also a graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in telecommunications. She is the recipient of 15 awards from the Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and Edward R. Murrow. Her award-winning stories include her coverage on the infamous “Dozier School for Boys” and a feature titled "Male Breast Cancer: Lost in the Sea of Pink." Currently, Sascha serves as the host and producer of local and state news content for the afternoon news program "All Things Considered" at WFSU. Sascha primarily covers criminal justice and social services issues. When she's not reporting, Sascha likes catching up on her favorite TV shows, singing and reading. Follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter:@SaschaCordner.