Florida kicks off lionfish removal program

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The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Emerald Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau are holding the fifth annual Lionfish Removal and Awareness Festival in Destin this weekend.

The event takes place at AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar, and HarborWalk Village.

The 2019 Lionfish Challenge removal incentive program begins May 18 and continues through Sept. 2.

Local restaurants will be serving lionfish. The Crab Trap in Destin will feature the invasive species on its menu tonight, and AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar will feature it Thursday.

This year, participants who submit the largest and smallest lionfish may be eligible to receive up to $3,000 in cash prizes thanks to support from sponsors American Sportfishing Association, Yamaha Motor Co., Marine Industries Association of Palm Beach County and National Marine Manufacturers Association.

Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day raises awareness about the non-native, invasive species, which negatively impacts native species and habitat.

Lionfish prey on native fish and have been shown to reduce native populations on some reefs by more than 90 percent.

Lionfish consume more than 30 species of fish in the Gulf of Mexico, and will even eat each other, according to the FWC. They are capable of eating fish up to two-thirds their size. 

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