Learn more about lionfish this weekend

The 2nd Annual Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day Festival will be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. this Saturday and Sunday May 14-15 at Plaza de Luna Park in Pensacola.
Lionfish are an invasive species that are nonnative to the Gulf of Mexico. They were first sighted off the northern Gulf Coast in 2010 and they could have a potential negative impact on native species and habitat.
This weekend’s event will include celebrity chef and fillet demonstrations, lionfish tastings, family-friendly games, a water fountain for kids, and more than forty art, diving and conservation vendors.
The festival is hosted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Reef Rangers, and the Gulf Coast Lionfish Coalition that is comprised of concerned scientists, scuba divers, fishermen, gourmet cooks, and other stakeholders that work to promote awareness and help mitigate the threat that the invasive Lionfish poses to Gulf Coast fisheries.
Their mission is to educate the public, increase awareness of the threats posed by the invasive lionfish to fisheries and marine ecosystems, promote and facilitate the removal of lionfish by volunteer divers, and to promote and facilitate the consumption of lionfish via restaurants and seafood markets.
A lionfish shootout will be a big part of the fun this weekend. The contest will start at sunrise on Friday May 13 and prizes will be awarded to the team with the most, individual with the largest, and individual with the smallest.
The scoring station will be open from 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday May 14 and 8 to 11 a.m. Sunday May 15 so be sure to swing by the festival and checkout their catch.
Pensacola’s event is part of a state wide effort by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to bring awareness about lionfish.
There’s also a new panhandle pilot program that will focus on lionfish removal efforts off Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, Bay, Gulf and Franklin counties, where lionfish can be found in high densities.
For every 100 lionfish checked in from this seven-county region between May 2016 and May 2017, the harvester will be eligible to receive a tag allowing them to take either a legal-sized red grouper or a legal-sized cobia that is over the bag limit from state waters.
In addition, the first 10 persons or groups that check in 500 or more lionfish during this one-year period will be given the opportunity to name an artificial reef.
To learn more about the current issues with lionfish go to gulfcoastlionfish.com or myfwc.com/lionfish.

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