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Message From the Chairman

Saltwater Marine Fishing Regulations Florida Saltwater Fishing

FWC continues exploring new and exciting lionfish removal incentive programs

FWC has been fully immersed in lionfish control efforts, from regulatory changes, to educational and removal incentive programs and tournament assistance. While there is a lot that remains unknown about lionfish, such as their population size, we have learned a lot about the invasive species in the past few years including how to encourage the public to remove and eat them. Stakeholder reports that lionfish are becoming harder to find on frequently-visited reefs is a positive sign that our efforts are making a difference on a local scale. And that is one more reason we are excited about the 2017 Lionfish Challenge. This statewide event incorporates the popular aspects of last year’s removal incentive program and adds even more. To start, participants can now qualify by removing only 25 lionfish (or 25 pounds commercially). This is down from last year’s qualification requirement of 50 lionfish, which will hopefully encourage even more people to participate. This year, harvesters are also separated into recreational or commercial categories (commercial saltwater products license holders with lionfish sales in the past year are automatically included in this category). This change not only allows recreational harvesters a better chance at winning the top prize of Lionfish King or Queen, but it also allows the commercial harvesters to participate conveniently via photos of their electronic trip tickets, while still being able to sell their catch in whole condition (recreational harvesters must submit lionfish tails at designated statewide checkpoint locations). In addition to the recreational Lionfish King or Queen, a Commercial Champion will be crowned on Sept. 10 at the Lionfish Safari tournament in St. Petersburg. All participants will receive a qualification prize for their efforts, which includes a commemorative coin, t-shirt, and chance to take an extra spiny lobster per day during the two-day mini-season. Participants that harvest greater than 25 lionfish can qualify for additional tiered prizes.

Interested in participating? Harvesters must register first (also a new feature of the program) at MyFWC.com/Lionfish. This program runs through Sept. 4, 2017. Missed this year’s chance to participate? Check out our many other ways to get involved on the website as well.

Brian Yablonski

Chairman, Florida Fish and Wildlife
Conservation Commission