Meaghan Faletti, lionfish outreach coordinator for the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, shows two large lionfish harvested during the Gold Coast Lionfish Derby. Willie Howard/The Coastal Star
Dive teams competing in the Third Annual Gold Coast Lionfish Derby removed 379 invasive, non-native lionfish from area reefs during the July 25 event based at the Waterstone Resort & Marina in Boca Raton.
Team Pteroist Hunters (a team name based on the lionfish’s genus, Pterois) speared the most lionfish — 187 by a four-man team — while diving with Eric Finn on the Finn-Atic. They beat the second-place team, Pain Killer, by 52 lionfish winning $500.
Finn said the Pteroist team found most of its lionfish in 80 to 150 feet of water.
Derby organizer Sean Meadows of World of Scuba, a dive shop in Boca Raton, also awarded prizes for the largest lionfish brought to the docks (about 16.5 inches) and the smallest (about 3.6 inches).
Representatives from Reef Environmental Education Foundation measured each lionfish as part of their efforts to monitor populations of the invasive fish, native to the South Pacific and Indian oceans, that are occupying Florida reefs, eating native fish and stealing their food.
Lionfish speared during the derby were filleted and fried by the staff at the Waterstone Resort & Marina and served to participants and guests with Key lime/cilantro tartar sauce.
Another lionfish roundup, the Palm Beach County Lionfish Derby, is scheduled for Aug. 15 based at Sailfish Marina on Singer Island. The $120 entry fee (for a four-diver team) includes puncture-resistant gloves, drink tickets and a review of lionfish handling methods.
The event begins Aug. 14 with final registration and a captain’s meeting beginning at 5:30 p.m. at Sailfish Marina. Participants can register online at www.reef.org/lionfish/derbies.
— Willie Howard