Thousands of lionfish, including Florida's state record, were harvested in a recent statewide event.
The turnout at the Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day Festival on May 14th and 15th proved to be one for the record books.
With 8,089 lionfish removed in only two days, it is hard to call this year's Gulf Coast Lionfish Coalition Tournament in Pensacola anything but a success. Allied with other FWC events throughout the state, a total of 14,067 lionfish were removed just prior to and during the weekend long event.
To make the weekend even more epic, Charles Meyling of Montgomery toppled the state record for the longest lionfish caught in gulf waters. Charles returned with a lionfish measuring 445 millimeters, shattering the previous standing record of 438 millimeters.
According to Jessica McCawley, Division of Marine Fisheries Management director, "These numbers are a great example of the agency's efforts to get the public educated about and involved in lionfish removal. Events like this one will encourage continued involvement in proactively and successfully removing lionfish."
A record number of participants, more than double last year's numbers, showed up to taste lionfish, view filet demonstrations, and check out the numerous conservation booths providing information on the efforts to control the invasive species. With the recent acceptance of lionfish as an acceptable cuisine, a number of restaurants throughout the gulf coast have begun adding the fish to their menus.
Education and participation have been playing the most important roles in making sure the lionfish population is kept at a minimum.
Want to get in on the action? Join thousands of other participants in the 2016 Lionfish Challenge or the Panhandle Pilot Program. Be sure to check out MyFWC.com/Lionfish for more information on how you can help remove this invasive species from our native waters.
If you are a lionfish owner and want to learn more about where you can turn in your unwanted fish, click here or visit MyFWC.com/WildlifeHabitats and click on "Nonnative Species," then "Exotic Pet Amnesty Program."