Florida names winners of lionfish removal competition

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Diver skewering lionfish

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said 26,321 lionfish were removed from state waters during the four-month program.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced the winners of the 2017 Lionfish Challenge, during which 26,321 of the invasive species were removed from Florida waters.

Ken Ayers Jr., of Panama City, took home the recreational Lionfish King award with a total of 1,250 lionfish harvested.

Joshua Livingston, of Destin, became Florida’s first Commercial Champion for his efforts in removing 4,560 pounds of lionfish (poundage equates to about 5,027 fish), according to the FWC.

On top of other prizes earned throughout the event, the two winners were presented with a custom-made Fish Bone Design trophy and a “No Shoes Reefs” Engel 85 cooler.

A total of 120 recreational and commercial harvesters participated in the four-month program, which ran from Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day on May 20 through Sept. 4.

A total of 8,901 lionfish were removed by recreational participants and another 15,800 pounds were removed commercially (poundage equates to about 17,420 lionfish).

Although this year’s Lionfish Challenge is over, the FWC said there are other programs that encourage lionfish removal. The new and improved Reef Rangers website (ReefRangers.com) launched in early September. Participants who adopt a reef will receive a Reef Rangers Lionfish Control Team T-shirt and tank sticker.