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Over 400 lionfish collected in Florida derby

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Posted at 7:52 AM, Jul 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-11 07:52:12-04

SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. --Divers hoped to make a dent in the Gulf's lionfish population this weekend by participating in a derby that removed hundreds of the invasive species from area waters.

According to Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, divers removed 429 invasive lionfish from the Gulf of Mexico during the third annual Sarasota Lionfish Derby.

The event was a partnership effort among Mote, Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF), which helps study and address the lionfish invasion and sanctions official Lionfish Derbies, and ZooKeeper, the leader in lionfish containment throughout invaded areas.

This was the first derby in the 2016 Summer Lionfish Derby Series coordinated by REEF. Three upcoming derbies are accepting registrations at: www.reef.org/lionfish/derbies.

During the Sarasota derby, six teams of 19 Florida divers vied to catch the most lionfish, the largest lionfish and the smallest lionfish in Gulf of Mexico waters ranging from Collier to Escambia County.

Sunday, more than $3,500 in total cash prizes were awarded to first, second and third place winners in each category during an awards ceremony that filled Mote’s WAVE Center to capacity.

Leading up to the ceremony, top local chefs from Indigenous Restaurant, Mattison’s Restaurants & Catering, Seafood Shack and Beach House prepared tasty lionfish dishes for the public.

Derby winners are below.

The Indo-Pacific lionfish has invaded coastal habitats of the western Atlantic Ocean over the past two decades and has the potential to cause major ecological changes in reef fish communities. These efficient predators are venomous, reproduce frequently and year-round, and they pose a major threat to Florida’s native species and ecosystems.

Derby winners

Most lionfish:

First (award: $1,000):

Team: We Be Dreamin’
Members: Michael DeRemer, Charlie Barnes, Koa Viravong and Thanh Truong
Where members are from: St. Petersburg and Seminole, Florida
Number of lionfish caught: 349

Second ($500):

Team: Team ZooKeeper
Members: Colleen Cook, Allie ElHage, Grant Trier and KC Trier
Where members are from: Sarasota, Clearwater, New Smyrna Beach, Florida
Number of lionfish caught: 77

Third ($250):

Team: Dive Rite
Members: Meaghan Faletti, John McCain, Kelly Schnute and Chris Barton
Where members are from: Fort Lauderdale, St. Petersburg, Lake City and Sarasota, Florida
Number of lionfish caught: 2

Largest lionfish:

First ($500):

Team: We Be Dreamin’
Members: Michael DeRemer, Charlie Barnes, Koa Viravong and Thanh Truong
Where members are from: St. Petersburg and Seminole, Florida
Lionfish size: 385 mm

Second ($250):

Team: Team ZooKeeper
Members: Colleen Cook, Allie ElHage, Grant Trier and KC Trier
Where members are from: Sarasota, Clearwater, New Smyrna Beach, Florida
Lionfish size: 383 mm

Third ($150):

Team: Sweet Persuit
Members: Eric Cote and Jennifer Ford
Where members are from: Venice, Florida
Lionfish size: 302 mm

Smallest lionfish:

First ($500):

Team: Team ZooKeeper
Members: Colleen Cook, Allie ElHage, Grant Trier and KC Trier
Where members are from: Sarasota, Clearwater, New Smyrna Beach Florida
Lionfish size: 112 mm

Second ($250):
Team: We Be Dreamin’
Members: Michael DeRemer, Charlie Barnes, Koa Viravong and Thanh Truong
Where members are from: St. Petersburg and Seminole, Florida
Lionfish size: 113 mm

Third ($150):

Team: Dive Rite
Members: Meaghan Faletti, John McCain, Kelly Schnute and Chris Barton
Where members are from: Fort Lauderdale, St. Petersburg, Lake City, Sarasota
Lionfish size: 252 mm