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How to win up to $5K catching invasive lionfish this summer

Win prizes, cash while helping Florida's water ecosystems

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(FWC)

Officials with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission are putting up money and prizes to encourage anglers to help Florida's ocean ecosystems by catching lionfish all summer long.

Lionfish have invaded Florida’s coastal waters, negatively affecting native wildlife and ecosystems. The colorful fish with a lion-like manes are most commonly caught using a hand-held nets or spears.

To head off the invasive species, the FWC is offering up to $5,000 to those who catch the venomous lionfish and remove them from Florida waters with its annual Lionfish Challenge which opened in May.

There are categories for recreational and commercial anglers as wells as the tagged-lionfish category.

According to FWC, lionfish will be tagged at 50 randomly selected public artificial reef sites. Participants who remove the most tagged lionfish could win a cash prize of between $500 and $5,000 and prizes such as a GoPro camera.

Find out how to register and read more about the prizes at myfwc.org/lionfish.

Last year, anglers brought in an averaged of about 120 lionfish a day  and about 13,000 lionfish total were caught in Florida waters when the annual contest ended.

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Lionfish are native in ocean waters off Africa, Asia and Australia. Florida officials say the lionfish invasion began with a handful of released fish and were first discovered in 1985 near Fort Lauderdale. They've since spread statewide and beyond.

Learn more about invasive species in the Sunshine State here.

Lionfish eat native fish, including species important to maintaining healthy reefs. They also compete with other native predatory fish for food. Lionfish defend themselves with venomous spines and have few natural predators in U.S. waters.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.