Bob Cox decided to participate in the Lionfish Challenge because he photographs lionfish and wants to help reduce the negative impact they have on marine life.
The issue with lionfish is they are an invasive species that negatively impact native species’ and habitats, said Cox, president for the Mexico Beach Artificial Reef Association.
“I really am looking forward to having more participants this year to get them to remove more lionfish from the water,” Cox said.
The challenge, which rewards harvesters for removing lionfish, started May 19 and ends Sept. 3. Afterward, the champion will be announced. Cash prizes up to $5,000 are given to harvesters, according to the press release.
In the meantime, there will be a raffle drawing Wednesday. Prizes will include a 4-foot JBL pole spear, Dive Rite surface marker tube, Lionator pole spear prize pack and Enriched Air Diver Class from Narked Scuba, according to a press release.
Amanda Nalley, the public information specialist for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said 407 people have registered so far. As of Tuesday, 31 people had submitted fish.
She said lionfish can be found in saltwater and brackish areas across the state. The population is more dense in some areas than others. For example, there are not many on the Big Bend coast near Gainesville, but they are in the south and east coasts.
Nalley said the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission encourages people to remove lionfish from Florida waters.
Cox said he has participated in the competition every year since it started and has found more than 17 pounds of lionfish in the Gulf of Mexico.
“When there are more participants, it puts more fun into harvesting the lionfish,” Cox said.
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