One of south Florida’s prized possessions is its ocean and all of the wildlife within it. The fishing industry in Jupiter and the rest of Palm Beach County is flourishing, from sport fishing in deep waters to fishing the mangroves along the river. However, our precious waters are facing a threat. What would you do if you had the opportunity to help extinguish the problem? This weekend you will have the chance!
Just this week, wildlife officials have opened a weekend event to help take care of this invasive problem, the Lionfish. You have most certainly seen this beautiful fish gracefully gliding in large tanks and aquariums in exotic resorts. The Lionfish has slowly populated our reefs as well as the waters of the Bahamas. The problem with the Lionfish is that it does not have any natural predators here and is devastating our natural fish populations, thus growing wildly out of control. The Lionfish were first reported in 1985 off of Dania Beach in south Florida. In our waters their population flourishes, they eat our native fish, destroy their habitats and are very poisonous, posing a threat to our locals who love to fish, dive and swim.
This weekend, Saturday, August 18, is the first Lionfish Derby. The Lionfish Derby will be held at the Sailfish Marina on Singer Island from sunrise until 4 pm. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission declared that a fishing license is not necessary for those partaking in the derby. Those who are joining the derby will be allowed to use Hawaiian slings, pole spears and any hand held device designed for lionfish. If you decide to use these methods you will not need a fishing license but for any other way of harvesting them you will need to present a license. There will be no bag limit for the derby. It is a one-day competition for free divers, scuba divers and snorkelers to compete to earn more than $3,000 in cash prizes. Prizes will go to the teams with the largest, smallest and most lionfish.
According to the Fish and Wildlife Conservation, this event will greatly help out with the out of control species. Randy Jordan, the co-chair of the event has said, “[the derby] means bad news for the lionfish and great news for everyone else.”
Although the Lionfish is a beautiful creature, they are devastating to our reefs and indigenous species. By harvesting them and controlling their numbers we can keep our waters healthy! If you would like to learn more about the Lionfish Derby or to register for it, please visit: www.REEF.org/lionfish/derbies or www.lionfishderby.com.