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Wanted dead, not alive: the lionfish. You can make $5,000 if you get rid of them

Lionfish Removal and Awareness Festival 2018

Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day in Florida will be celebrated May 19 and 20 with a tournament and festival in Pensacola and concurrent events around the state.
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Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day in Florida will be celebrated May 19 and 20 with a tournament and festival in Pensacola and concurrent events around the state.

How sick of the lionfish is the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission?

Enough so to offer you up to $5,000 to catch the nasty critters and get them out of Florida waters.

The FWC's Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day Challenge, running through Labor Day on Sept. 3, calls on both recreational and commercial fishermen and women to harvest lionfish and submit photos of the first 25 lionfish.

After the first 25, you have to submit tails for the chance to collect the top prize.

Tails can be submitted at numerous checkpoints throughout Florida, including in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Pompano Beach, Islamorada, Tavernier, Marathon, Key West and Boca Raton.

Participants can also get a 2018 Lionfish Challenge T-shirt, commemorative coin and entry into the FWC Lionfish Hall of Fame.

FWC said on its Facebook page that a goal of the challenge is to "provide important information about lionfish movement and to encourage others to remove far greater quantities and sizes of lionfish than FWC tagged. FWC staff do remove lionfish frequently, but programs like this one will help achieve these additional goals."

Information at: http://www.myfwc.com/Lionfish

Native to the South Pacific and Indian oceans, lionfish initially became popular aquarium fish in the 1980s because of their colorful vertical stripes. But pretty is deadly in the case of these invasive fish.

Those dorsal spikes are a venomous defense mechanism. Lionfish have a voracious appetite. They'd eat up all the other reef fish people kept in tanks. And they'd sting you for cleaning out their aquariums.

Then it got worse.

People started dumping the lionfish in South Florida waters and the fish began multiplying, preying on native species and ruining coral reefs. Lionfish also avoid the food chain since they have so few natural enemies.

Over the last five years, some dozen South Florida restaurants began serving lionfish on their menus because the delicate, flaky fish, often compared to hogfish and snapper, is a taste treat.

That's one way to help reduce their numbers.

An invasive species of fish called the lionfish could change the balance of sea life in the waters of the Florida Keys.

Follow @HowardCohen on Twitter.
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