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Wanted: Fishermen To Take Part In Lionfish Derby

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The Lionfish is a voracious venomous sea predator that uses its stripped spines to corner its prey and swift reflexes to snatch them up and swallow them whole. (Photo credit: KARIM SAHIB/AFP/Getty Images)

The Lionfish is a voracious venomous sea predator that uses its stripped spines to corner its prey and swift reflexes to snatch them up and swallow them whole. (Photo credit: KARIM SAHIB/AFP/Getty Images)

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Calling all South Florida fishermen who want to take part in an upcoming Lionfish Derby.

Lionfish, which have no natural reef predators except man, are wrecking ecological chaos because they eat important indigenous fish such as Grouper and Snapper.

Derbies, such as the one being held April 28th, are organized to try and thin out the growing lionfish population.

A U.S. Geological Survey map dating back to 2000 shows the lionfish beginning to appear along the Eastern seaboard. By 2009, the entire Caribbean and Florida Keys became saturated. Lionfish can now be found as far west as Louisiana and as far south as Venezuela.

This lionfish derby will be held April 28th at Black Point Park and Marina, located at 24775 SW 87 Avenue in Miami.

It’s hosted by Miami-Dade Cooperative Extension’s Sea Grant Program and the Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF).

The one-day competition allows registered teams to collect as many lionfish as possible between Sunrise and 5:00 p.m.

Prizes will be given to teams who catch the Most, Biggest and Smallest lionfish.

If you want to take part, you must attend a mandatory Captain’s meeting be held at the Black Point Ocean Grill on Friday, April 27th at 7:00 p.m.

The meeting will include important information on the state of the lionfish invasion as well as techniques for capture and safe handling of lionfish.  Derby procedures, rules, and scoring methodology will also be reviewed.  All registered teams will receive a pair of protective gloves during check-in.

Those puncture-resistant gloves are critical because they protect divers from the lionfish’s venomous spines. The mane-like assemblage of spines that give the fish its lion-like appearance are tipped in poison that can cause severe pain, swelling, nausea, headaches and convulsions. However, the fish can be safely handled once the spines have been removed and many people fillet lionfish and cook them up just like any other fish.

Scoring and lionfish tastings will be open to the public following the derby.

lionfish cookbook Wanted: Fishermen To Take Part In Lionfish Derby

The Reef Environmental Education Foundation has published a cookbook on how to serve up lionfish. (Source: Reef Environmental Education Foundation)

Lionfish are said to be quite delicious. There’s even an “Eat Lionfish” campaign underway and a Lionfish Cookbook which has recipes for the mild flavored fish plus tips on how to handle them without getting hurt.

South Florida fishermen removed more than 3,500 invasive lionfish from the waters off the Florida Key, South Florida, and the Bahamas in REEF-sponsored derbies in 2011.

For more information or to register visit www.reef.org/lionfish/derbies or call 305-852-0030.

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