Lionfish Derby and Lionfish Safari Near St Pete Beach Aim to Rid Gulf of Mexico of Invasive Species

Lionfish could put thousands of fishing jobs on the line. The Lionfish Derby is set to be the biggest tournament ever held to catch the invasive fish.

Remember those colorful, spiny, poisonous fish you learned about in grade school? They are now an invasive species in the Gulf of Mexico in coral reefs near the coast of Florida. This weekend there is a Lionfish Derby and a Lionfish Safari that promotes killing as many Lionfish as possible. Lionfish have venomous spines, which have successfully eliminated most predators. Leaving one main predator — humans.

The sting of the venomous spine is normally not fatal to humans, but the sting can cause extreme pain, headaches, vomiting and difficulty breathing.

Lionfish are an invasive species that have a potential negative impact on Florida’s native wildlife and habitat, gamefish, and Florida’s restaurant industry.

Contestants at the Lionfish Safari at the Guy Harvey Outpost, a TradeWinds Beach Resort, on the white sands of St. Pete Beach are hoping to win the $600 prize of the most Lionfish killed or the $600 prize of the most Lionfish by weight.

The red lionfish (Pterois volitans) is a venomous, coral reef fish natively found in the Indo-Pacific region, but has become an invasive problem in the Caribbean Seas along the East Coast of the United States. The average red lionfish lives around 10 years, and after courtship, females releases two egg masses (with 15,000 eggs each). They might spawn as many as 2 million eggs per year.

Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day falls annually on the first Saturday after Mother’s Day. In 2015, weekend’s festivities included lionfish removal events held across the state and a FWC-hosted festival that attracted more than 3,000 visitors in Pensacola.

Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day was created by the FWC in early 2015 to encourage removal of, and to raise awareness about lionfish. More than 2,000 lionfish were removed from Florida waters by those participating in Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day.

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