MARATHON, Florida Keys Divers can help capture and remove non-native lionfish from Keys waters Saturday and Sunday, July 21-22, as well as scout favorite lobster holes before the annual lobster mini season.
Sanctuary Friends Foundation of the Florida Keys has partnered with the Marathon dive community to create the two-day tournament geared toward the removal of lionfish, a popular aquarium fish believed to been introduced to Florida waters during the 1980s.
The Indo-Pacific red lionfish consumes a wide variety of prey such as invertebrates, juvenile grouper and snapper, and populations are growing rapidly in Atlantic waters, outcompeting native fish for food and territory. Lionfish have no natural reef predators except humans.
Cash prizes are to be awarded to divers who catch the most lionfish, the biggest and the smallest in the tournament. Other prizes such as spear guns, gift certificates and dive gear also are to be awarded.
Divers can participate in the tournament from their own private vessel or join a professional dive operators charter.
Teams must register with a participating Middle Keys dive shop: A Deep Blue Dive, located at 400 Sadowski Causeway in Key Colony Beach; Captain Hooks Marina & Dive Center, mile marker (MM) 53 oceanside; Tildens Scuba Center, MM 49.5 bayside; Dive Duck Key, MM 61 at Hawks Cay Resort; Halls Diving Center, MM 50; Abyss Dive Center at 12565 Overseas Highway and Big Time Bait and Tackle at 11499 Overseas Highway.
A team meeting is set for 7 p.m. Friday, July 20, at Captain Hooks Marina & Dive Center, with hot dogs and beverages for competitors.
Saturday and Sunday are fishing days. A lionfish tasting and awards banquet is to be held at 6 p.m. Sunday at Sparkys Landing on the Sadowski Causeway in Key Colony Beach.
Teams of up to four people can register for $100. The price includes a team bag of goodies and admission to the Sunday tasting. Additional tasting tickets can be purchased for $10.
Tournament information and team registration: Kristen Livengood at 305-289-2288
Florida Keys diving: www.fla-keys.com/diving
Marathon visitor information: www.fla-keys.com/marathonor