Nearly 20,000 lionfish caught during Destin tournament

Okaloosa County officials say 19,167 lionfish were removed during the Emerald Coast Open Lionfish Tournament. (Taso Viglas / CC BY 2.0)
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OKALOOSA COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) -- Officials say more lionfish were removed in this weekend's Emerald Coast Open Lionfish Tournament than ever before.

Okaloosa County officials say this year a record-shattering 14,119 lionfish were removed over two days. In the pre-tournament competition, another 5,048 lionfish were caught. In total, the event removed 19,167 lionfish.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says lionfish are an invasive species in Florida waters and encourages people to remove them.

Lionfish are a predatory reef fish. They eat native fish, and they can eliminate species that serve important ecological roles such as fish that keep algae in check on the reefs. Lionfish also compete for food with native predatory fish such as grouper and snapper.

Okaloosa County officials say hunters from all over came to participate for the tournament. They say 189 hunters competed form more than $48,000 in cash prizes and $15,000 in gear prizes.

They say the winning team, Florida Man on Destin based dive charter, Dreadknot, brought in 2,241 lionfish in the two days.

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