Four spearfishermen have outdone themselves at a recent lionfish removal derby in the waters off of Islamorada, Florida. The team, known as “Forever Young,” removed a whopping 648 lionfish in just two days.
Team Forever Young is led by Captain Tony Young, who runs Forever Young Spearfishing, a charter company in the Florida Keys. At the recent Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) Derby, Young was joined by Jason Vogan, Billy Moscatello, and Luke Rankin. The derby ran from September 8 to 9. Team Forever Young took home first prize and set a new tournament record. The effort is not only an impressive feat—it’s also critical for native fish in the area.
“These fish are invasive and have a devastating effect on the local reef ecosystem,” explained Young in an Instagram post. “Removing them in large numbers is both economically and ecologically important for the Florida Keys.”
It’s not the first time Young and his team have set a record. In 2021, they removed 564 fish in two days at the fall derby. In 2022, they captured 426 lionfish in one day during the spring derby.
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Lionfish are native to the Indo-Pacific. As invaders of American waters, they’re known to outcompete native fish and disrupt the ecological balance of sensitive reefs. REEF’s annual derbies foster hands-on action and raise awareness of the plight of local reefs. This year, 1,898 lionfish were removed in total during the fall derby.
“All [our] fish went to Chef Michael’s Restaurant for the community and visitors of the Upper Keys to enjoy,” added Young. “Not one fish goes to waste.”