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Lionfish Derby removes hundreds of the invasive species from Gulf waters

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SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - Divers removed 429 invasive lionfish from the Gulf of Mexico during the third annual Sarasota Lionfish Derby, which drew more than 300 visitors to its culminating event today, July 10, at Mote Marine Laboratory.

The Sarasota, Florida-based derby was a partnership effort among Mote, a world-class marine science institution, Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF), which helps study and address the lionfish invasion and sanctions official Lionfish Derbies, and ZooKeeper, the leader in lionfish containment throughout invaded areas. This was the first derby in the 2016 Summer Lionfish Derby Series coordinated by REEF. Three upcoming derbies are accepting registrations at: www.reef.org/lionfish/derbies.

During the Sarasota derby from July 8-10, six teams of 19 Florida divers vied to catch the most lionfish, the largest lionfish and the smallest lionfish in Gulf of Mexico waters ranging from Collier to Escambia County.

On July 10, more than $3,500 in total cash prizes were awarded to first, second and third place winners in each category during an awards ceremony that filled Mote’s WAVE Center to capacity. Leading up to the ceremony, top local chefs from Indigenous Restaurant, Mattison’s Restaurants & Catering, Seafood Shack and Beach House prepared tasty lionfish dishes for the public.

Mote Marine reports the winners of the Lionfish Derby include:

First (award: $1,000):

Team: We Be Dreamin’

Members: Michael DeRemer, Charlie Barnes, Koa Viravong and Thanh Truong

Where members are from: St. Petersburg and Seminole, Florida

Number of lionfish caught: 349

Second ($500):

Team: Team ZooKeeper

Members: Colleen Cook, Allie ElHage, Grant Trier and KC Trier

Where members are from: Sarasota, Clearwater, New Smyrna Beach, Florida

Number of lionfish caught: 77

Third ($250):

Team: Dive Rite

Members: Meaghan Faletti, John McCain, Kelly Schnute and Chris Barton

Where members are from: Fort Lauderdale, St. Petersburg, Lake City and Sarasota, Florida

Number of lionfish caught: 2

Largest lionfish

First ($500):

Team: We Be Dreamin’

Members: Michael DeRemer, Charlie Barnes, Koa Viravong and Thanh Truong

Where members are from: St. Petersburg and Seminole, Florida

Lionfish size: 385 mm

Second ($250):

Team: Team ZooKeeper

Members: Colleen Cook, Allie ElHage, Grant Trier and KC Trier

Where members are from: Sarasota, Clearwater, New Smyrna Beach, Florida

Lionfish size: 383 mm

Third ($150):

Team: Sweet Persuit

Members: Eric Cote and Jennifer Ford

Where members are from: Venice, Florida

Lionfish size: 302 mm

Smallest lionfish

First ($500):

Team: Team ZooKeeper

Members: Colleen Cook, Allie ElHage, Grant Trier and KC Trier

Where members are from: Sarasota, Clearwater, New Smyrna Beach Florida

Lionfish size: 112 mm

Second ($250):

Team: We Be Dreamin’

Members: Michael DeRemer, Charlie Barnes, Koa Viravong and Thanh Truong

Where members are from: St. Petersburg and Seminole, Florida

Lionfish size: 113 mm

Third ($150):

Team: Dive Rite

Members: Meaghan Faletti, John McCain, Kelly Schnute and Chris Barton

Where members are from: Fort Lauderdale, St. Petersburg, Lake City, Sarasota

Lionfish size: 252 mm