The eighth edition of the highly anticipated Lionfish Challenge concluded on Oct. 1, and the competition was fierce until the very last submission. In a year that shattered previous records, participants showcased their determination to rid Florida waters of invasive lionfish and claim the coveted titles of Lionfish King or Queen and Commercial Champion.
The 2023 Lionfish Challenge, sponsored by ZooKeeper, witnessed an unprecedented surge in participation, with an astounding 281 registrants submitting lionfish. This number is nearly double the program’s highest participation numbers on record. These dedicated divers embarked on 917 trips throughout the state during the 4-month tournament, triumphantly removing a staggering 30,494 lionfish from Florida state waters, nearly 5,000 more than last year. This is the highest tournament total since the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Lionfish Control Team’s inception in 2014. Amidst these awe-inspiring results, two participants emerged as the victors. Introducing the winners of the 2023 Lionfish Challenge:
- Lionfish King (First Place Recreational Division): Baye Beauford – 1,514 lionfish.
- Second Place Recreational Division: Dale Wolber – 1,145 lionfish.
- Third Place Recreational Division: David Connerth – 773 lionfish.
- Commercial Champion (First Place Commercial Division): Jerry Butler -1,208 pounds of lionfish.
- Second Place Commercial Division: David Garrett – 744 pounds of lionfish.
- Third Place Commercial Division: Alex Fogg – 516 pounds of lionfish.
- Military Prize: Eric Larson – 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.”
“The Lionfish Challenge is a great way to get people outdoors and involved in conservation by removing invasive lionfish. ” saidFWC 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.”