Looking for a derby? I Love A Good Lionfish Competition!

Firstly, what is a Lionfish derby?

Well, it’s a competition to collect and euthanize as many lionfish as possible. Divers attend a required kickoff briefing. In the briefing, you’ll learn the rules, biology, effects on our reefs and reef fishes, hunting and handling techniques. Not all derbies are the same; however, awards for the most lionfish, largest, smallest, and raffle awards are up for winning.

Florida Keys Lionfish Sweeps

Drop off REEF Campus, Key Largo, FL and Mote Marine Lab, Summerland Key, FL

April 1 – June 30, 2023


Friday, May 26th – Sunday, May 28th

Location: St. Croix, USVI

Click here for more information.

Emerald Coast Open

May 19th – May 20th, 2023 

Location: State of Florida

May 1 – July 27th – Charleston, SC & surrounding areas

July 28th 7pm – 10pm – Festival at the South Carolina Aquarium

FWC Lionfish Challenge 

TBD: June 1st, 2023 – October 1st,  2023

Location: State of Florida

Florida Keys Lionfish Derby & Festival

Friday, September 7th – Saturday, September 9th, 2023

Festival – Sunday, September 10th, 2023 – Key Largo, FL

Emerald Coast Open

Florida Keys Lionfish Sweeps

Florida Keys Lionfish Derby & Festival


60,000 lionfish in the region have been culled thanks to programming put on by REEF and other organizations.

Florida has great diving and great lionfish hunting all around the state. Deerfield Beach, FL is one of my favorite places to dive along with the gorgeous Florida Keys, but it is the sheer quantity of lionfish in the northern Gulf of Mexico that makes it one of the best places to hunt lionfish.

Lionfish have been found in water depths from 1 to 300 feet on hard bottom, mangrove, seagrass, coral, and artificial reefs (like shipwrecks).

How can I help, I want to euthanize Lionfish?

PADI has a Distinctive Specialty Course. “Invasive Lionfish Tracker”

Native to the Pacific Ocean, lionfish are progressively invading the north-western Atlantic and the Caribbean, where they have no natural predators. Learn what action is needed to control the lionfish population and, during two scuba dives, learn practical ways to safely capture and euthanize these fish.  

Source: PADI

Invasive species are a massive problem worldwide.

Defined as nonnative species that become established outside of their native range, and whose introduction causes harm or is likely to cause harm, invasives can disrupt natural habitats, hurt local economies and threaten human health. Invasives cause billions of dollars of damage every year, and approximately 42% of species that are listed as Threatened or Endangered in the U.S. are at risk primarily due to invasives. Invasive species are found in practically every ecosystem in the world—including our ocean.

No matter where you live, chances are you’ll be able to find invasive species volunteer opportunities nearby. Check out your closest state or national park’s website to see if they host invasive species walks—many organize half-day hikes where you learn to identify and remove invasive plants. Some state governments, including New Hampshire, Virginia and Massachusetts, organize training programs where you can become a “Weed Warrior” and are certified to conduct removals on state property. It’s easy to combine invasive species removal with other recreation, too—you can hire guides to spearfish for lionfish, or bow hunt for snakehead, for example.

Can’t find a removal event nearby? Organize your own! Learn to identify and effectively remove invasive plants in your area (just make sure you’re not accidentally removing a native species). And if you see an unfamiliar plant or animal in your community, report it to a local environmental, state or academic group specializing in invasive species management.

  • Get open water certified to dive.
  • Learn PADI’s Distinctive Specialty Count: Invasive Lionfish Tracker
  • Buy Lionfish hunting gear
  • Buy lionfish jewelry
  • Join REEF
  • Make donations to help other organizations.
  • Volunteer for Fish Survey Projects
  • Participate in a Lionfish Derby
  • Do a snorkel survey
  • Host a Lionfish Derby (FWC will help too)
  • Hunt Them! Divers Needed.
  • Eat Them! They taste like chicken. LOL!
  • Stop Importing Them! Ban lionfish as aquarium imports.
  • Smartphone App! Divers report sightings.
  •  Don’t feed them to other ocean life!  It trains sharks and so forth to associate eating with divers.
  • There are resources to teach kids too!
  • Eat them!

Lionfish are an invasive species that were introduced to the Atlantic Ocean by humans. They have no natural predators in the Atlantic and as a result, their populations have exploded, causing damage to coral reefs and native fish populations. It’s important to spread awareness about the negative impact of lionfish on the environment and encourage people to take action to reduce their populations. One way to help control the spread of lionfish is to consume them as a food source. Lionfish are safe to eat and taste great, and many chefs are including them on their menus to help control their populations. Additionally, participating in lionfish removal efforts through events like lionfish hunting tournaments can also help reduce their numbers. Another essential step in lionfish conservation is educating people about the risks of releasing lionfish into the wild. Many people who keep lionfish in their home aquariums will release them into the ocean once they get too big or become bored with them. This can lead to the introduction of even more lionfish into the wild, causing further damage to the ecosystem. Overall, reducing the lionfish populations through targeted removal efforts, promoting the consumption of lionfish, and educating people about the risks of releasing lionfish into the wild are all crucial steps in lionfish conservation.

Need to find an instructor?

Would you like a private class to become certified?

Are you a shop and would like to schedule a class to teach your divers?

The ZooKeeper Team loves to teach!

Contact us to discuss opportunities.


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