Florida lionfish-removal program receives $25,000 in industry donations

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The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has received $25,000 in donations from six marine companies for a 2018 tagged-lionfish removal incentive program.

The funds will go to the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida and be used as cash prizes for a new and novel removal-incentive program, rewarding harvesters who find and remove lionfish that FWC staff have tagged.

“The FWC could not be more thankful and excited about the rallying efforts to draw attention to the important lionfish issue,” said FWC commissioner Bo Rivard in a statement. “The control of non-native lionfish populations has always been a group effort, and what these companies and organizations came forward with to help encourage removals is simply outstanding.”

Donations came from the American Sportfishing Association, BoatUS, the Coastal Conservation Association of Florida, the Marine Industries Association of Palm Beach County Inc., the National Marine Manufacturers Association and Yamaha Motor Corp. U.S.A.

The program will run from May 19 through Sept. 3 and will coincide with the annual summer-long Lionfish Challenge, which rewards recreational and commercial lionfish harvesters with prizes for submitting their removal efforts.

The goal of the 2018 tagged-lionfish removal program is to increase statewide removal efforts by giving divers a greater incentive to harvest lionfish more often while in search of the valuable tagged fish. Additional non-cash prizes are also available for those who harvest and submit a tagged lionfish. The program will provide the FWC with valuable data on the movement of lionfish.

About six to eight lionfish will be tagged at each of 50 randomly selected public artificial reef sites throughout the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico between the depths of 80 and 120 feet. Participants will have access to the reef locations at ReefRangers.com.

Additional information about the rules and requirements of the tagged-lionfish removal program will be announced early next year.