Welcome to my backyard--the Florida Keys! I'm a travel writer, blogger and photographer with a passion for all things Florida, especially the Florida Keys. These islands are so much more than Duval Street and Jimmy Buffet. They are rich in history, culture, cuisine, nature and events--all surrounded by pristine waters teeming with wildlife. Whether you're a local or a visitor, the Conch Republic has many surprises in store. Let me be your guide.
Divers in the Florida Keys are being encouraged to catch as many of these zebra-striped spiky critters as possible at lionfish derbies slated for July 21 to 22 in Marathon and September 8 in Key Largo. This species is an immediate threat to the living coral reef system that makes the Keys so famous for fishing and diving. Known for their beauty and voracious appetite, the lionfish could decimate commercially- and ecologically-important natives like grouper, snapper, shrimp and parrotfish.
Local conservation groups, the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and Reef Environmental Education Foundation, have teamed up to host weekend derbies where teams compete to collect as many lionfish as possible. The first of these foes appeared in the Keys waters in 2009, and since 2010 derbies have removed more than 2,100 from sanctuary waters. Their poisonous spines can be quite painful, so each tournament begins with training on how to handle the creatures with puncture-proof gloves and catch bags. The derbies end with a lionfish tasting, using recipes from The Lionfish Cookbook.