The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced the winners of the record-breaking 2023 Lionfish Challenge on Thursday.
According to FWC, a record-breaking 281 people participated in the event, going on 917 trips and harvesting an impressive 30,494 invasive lionfish from Florida waters.
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The three categories in the Lionfish Challenge are the recreational division, the commercial division and the military prize.
First place in the recreational division, known as the Lionfish King or Queen, was Baye Beaufold. Beaufold blew by the competition by harvesting a stellar 1,514 lionfish.
Dale Wolber came in second place in the recreational division after harvesting a skillful 1,145 lionfish. David Connerth came in third place, harvesting a respectable 773 lionfish.
The commercial division is measured by the total weight of the lionfish caught. Jerry Butler came in first place harvesting a girthy 1,208 pounds of lionfish. David Garrett came in second harvesting 744 pounds of lionfish, followed by Alex Fogg, who harvested 516 pounds of lionfish.
This was the first year the military prize was offered in the Lionfish Challenge. The award is given to the top active military or veteran competitor.
Eric Larson won the military prize after harvesting an admirable 591 lionfish.
“I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to every individual who participated in the Lionfish Challenge, and a special congratulatory thank you to our 2023 Lionfish King and Commercial Champion,” said FWC Commission Chairman Rodney Barreto. “Our Lionfish Challenge participants have become environmental heroes, defending our marine ecosystems against invasive lionfish and exemplifying the spirit of conservation.”
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There were approximately 5,000 fewer lionfish harvested in the 2022 Lionfish Challenge.
“The Lionfish Challenge is a great way to get people outdoors and involved in conservation by removing invasive lionfish,” said FWC Executive Director Roger Young. “Thank you to all 2023 participants for removing over 30,000 invasive lionfish from Florida’s waters. Your efforts are making a difference in conserving our amazing marine resources.”
The Lionfish Challenge is a way to get locals interested in protecting Florida waters from invasive species. Lionfish could inflict a negative impact on native wildlife in Florida, so this competition is a way to limit the negative impacts the invasive species presents to the Florida ecosystem.