As most of you already know, lionfish have been invading Florida waters for several years now and have become a serious threat to the ecosystem. Being an invasive species, they have no natural enemies in this area.
David Garrett from Ormond Beach is also not a native underwater species, but has become one the greatest human predators of Lionfish in Florida. Since beginning the Florida Lionfish Challenge in May he’s speared a total of 684 of them.
The Florida FWC (Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission) implemented the Lionfish Challenge to remove some of the poisonous species from the waters and raise awareness to their impact. To date, 42 divers have removed a total of 6,307 fish. There’s even a running leaderboard to track the number of fish removed to date, and who removed them. David Garrett is at the top of the list, and has speared nearly double that of his closest competitor, John McCain, who has poked 374 of them.
While lionfish aren’t on the menu of sea-dwelling predators, they’re now on ours. Lionfish are now available at many restaurants, and they’re also available in Whole Foods stores in Florida.
Lionfish are so (relatively) new to the local ecosystem that even potential predators don’t really know what to do with them. Their population has exploded since it first was reported off of south Florida’s Atlantic coast in 1985. They’re now common throughout the Caribbean, up the Atlantic coastline, and beginning to work their way down South America. One reason for that is their apparent love of love – a female lionfish can release up to 30,000 eggs every four days. They’re also able to fend off any potential predators with poisonous spines, and can survive in water shallow or deep, up to a thousand feet. NOAA has reported that after lionfish are introduced to a new area, the survival rate of the native reef fish declines by up to 80 percent.
Though David Garrett took the lead in May and still holds strong in the first place position, the competition lasts through Sept. 30. Whoever is crowned King or Queen of the lionfish will receive several prizes, including a lifetime saltwater fishing license and being featured on the cover of the FWC’s January 2017 Saltwater Regulations publication.
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