Florida – An Ormond Beach man has been named the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s 1st-ever Lionfish King for his role in the removal of more than 100,000 lionfish from Florida waters.
David Garrett was presented a custom-made, mounted metal lionfish trophy at the November 17 FWC meeting in St. Petersburg. “Thanks to David and the tireless efforts of divers across the state, we are able to celebrate the removal of an amazing 111,000 lionfish so far this year, 37,000 of which were removed via recreational efforts,” said FWC Chairman Brian Yablonski. “This far exceeds our initial goal of 25,000 lionfish removed between May 2016 and May 2017 and we look forward to seeing what we can do to continue our battle against the invasive lionfish population.”
Garrett was honored for removing 3,324 lionfish during the 4 and a half month long Lionfish Challenge, which accounted for 16,609 lionfish removals. 95 people participated in the challenge. “Every lionfish removed is a benefit to the native fish and ecosystem,” said Garrett after receiving his award.
Fishing for lionfish isn’t just about saving the environment. According to Garrett, “they’re excellent tasting fish.” He compares the taste to black seabass and hogfish. But Garrett warns that we won’t be able to eat our way out of the lionfish problem. The size of a lionfish when it becomes capable of reproducing is too small for restaurants. Companies making fish spread are the exception, but Garrett says they’ve already got enough fish on hand for the next several months. Garrett says it’s best to get the lionfish while they’re young and small – don’t give them a chance to reach sexual maturity.
Garrett is a commercial fisherman, Professional Association of Diving Instructors scuba instructor and retired Army Major who runs a nonprofit lionfish removal organization. He and some friends started that organization, called Lionfish Eliminators Organization, Inc., about 2 years ago to help combat the growing population of lionfish in the area. Unfortunately, due to a lack of donations they’ll probably have to file for bankruptcy by the end of the year and close.
To learn more about Garrett’s nonprofit go to LionfishEliminators.org.
For photos go to the FWC’s Flickr site.
To see the FWC’s video on lionfish and the Lionfish King award, click here.
(2009 picture of Garrett with his 1st lionfish kill)
(May 2015 photo to be used on cover of January 2017 Saltwater Regulations publication)
Photos courtesy David Garrett.
Copyright Southern Stone Communications 2016.