FLORIDA KEYS — Reef Environmental Education Foundation is conducting a series of free one-day lionfish collection and handling workshops, followed by collection dives, in late spring in the Florida Keys.
REEF partners with the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and the dive community to cultivate hands-on, focused opportunities for Keys residents and visitors who enjoy the region's natural resources to take action and remove as many invasive lionfish as possible from Keys waters.
The popular aquarium fish, a voracious non-native predator, is believed to been introduced to Florida waters during the 1980s.
At each morning workshop divers learn about the background of the lionfish invasion, the biology and ecology of the fish, and current and future impacts.
REEF staff professionals then demonstrate how to collect and handle lionfish safely. Finally, class members can practice their learned skills during an afternoon lionfish removal dive.
Novice and experienced lionfish collectors are encouraged to attend. Both the workshop and dive are free, but workshop attendance is required to participate in the same-day dive.
Interested participants can choose to attend a workshop only. REEF will issue workshop-only attendees a permit to capture lionfish on their own, anywhere including sanctuary-protected areas.
Harvesting the fish is not subject to any seasonal or size requirements, and all recreational divers are encouraged to learn how to safely capture lionfish any time they dive.
Upcoming workshop/dives are scheduled in the Lower Keys April 22 and Key West May 13. Morning workshops take place from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., and afternoon dives are to embark by 1 p.m.
Space on the dive boats is very limited, so participants should reserve early. Workshop locations and dive departure times and locations can be found at reef.org/lionfish/workshops.
The popular workshop/dive combinations are expected to continue for the next year throughout the Upper, Middle and Lower Keys. Those interested can sign up for a pre-registration waitlist at reef.org/lionfish/workshoppreregistration.
Event information: reef.org/lionfish/workshops or 305-852-0030
Florida Keys diving: fla-keys.com/diving
Divers learn about the background of the lionfish invasion, the biology and ecology of the fish, and current and future impacts. Image: Adam Nardelli
Harvesting the fish is not subject to any seasonal or size requirements.
REEF staff demonstrate how to collect and handle lionfish safely.