Florida divers commended for massive harvest of invasive lionfish

Florida divers commended for massive harvest of invasive lionfish

Outdoors

Florida divers commended for massive harvest of invasive lionfish

Florida’s war on lionfish, an invasive species deemed harmful to the ecosystem, appears to at least be making a dent in the population.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) recently honored recreational and commercial divers for removing 28,260 lionfish from state waters during the 2018 Lionfish Challenge.

Ron Surrency (left) and John McCain pose with some of their lionfish haul. Photo: FWC

John McCain of Gilchrist County was dubbed “Lionfish King” among recreational divers for harvesting 1,137 lionfish.

Ron Surrency, a commercial diver from Duval County, removed 5,017 pounds of lionfish, or an estimated 5,531 individual lionfish.

Both men received a trophy and $500 gift card, as well as other prizes.

RELATED: Florida diver lands record lionfish, applauded for removing ‘large invader’

“This is another commendable effort by Florida’s recreational and commercial divers to help control lionfish populations and remove the invasive species from our waters,” FWC Chairman Bo Rivard said in a news release issued Wednesday.

Timothy Blasko poses with record lionfish speared in the Atlantic. Photo: FWC

The native range for lionfish is the Indo-Pacific and Red Sea. But in recent years the venomous fish have become prolific in warmer regions of the Atlantic, and in the Caribbean Sea.

Lionfish are prized as aquarium fish because of their striking appearance and it’s believed that they were introduced into the Atlantic decades ago by owners who no longer wished to care for them.

The first lionfish was documented off South Florida in 1985. They’re now considered one of the top predators of native fish species in reef environments.

Besides awarding divers for top harvest numbers, Florida has a record program to serve as a harvesting incentive.

David Forrester holds the record for heaviest lionfish speared in the Gulf of Mexico, a 3.38-pounder he encountered off Pensacola.

Timothy Blasko holds the record for heaviest lionfish speared in the Atlantic, a 3.10-pounder removed from Tennessee Reef in Monroe County.

The state also maintains length and hook-and-line records.

–FWC images show Ron Surrency and John McCain (top, left to right) and spearfishing record-holder Timothy Blasko 

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