KEY LARGO, Fla. (AP) - More than 100 divers collected 534 Indo-Pacific red lionfish during the first concerted effort to reduce the population of the invasive species in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
The first of three Keys-based lionfish derbies Saturday attracted 27 teams, which competed for cash and prizes to collect the most, largest and smallest lionfish. The winning group captured 111 lionfish.
Lad Akins, of the Reef Environmental Education Foundation, says unsuspecting pet owners are releasing the nonnative fish into the Atlantic, where they have no natural predators.
Lionfish's growing populations off the southeast U.S., Bahamas and the Caribbean are impacting indigenous fish, because they eat important juvenile reef species such as grouper and snapper.