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Lion Fish spearfish competition hopes to slow growth of invasive species

Many boaters will be spearfishing this weekend as the Lion on the Line: Lion Fish Derby kicks off near the Flora Bama Ole River bar and Grill.

The battle is on against an invasive species of fish that could ravage our seafood industry.

Experts say Lion Fish are multiplying at remarkable speeds and with no natural predator, they’re eating their fair share.

Local 15 got to take a look at Lion Fish spearing in action thanks to video taken by Gary’s Gulf Divers.

Many boaters will be spearfishing this weekend as the Lion on the Line: Lion Fish Derby kicks off near the Flora Bama Ole River bar and Grill.

On Friday, the first round of boaters took to the water.

Captain William Ervin and his group from Loxley were one of the contestants.

They went spearfishing more than a dozen miles out and made it back with dozens of Lion Fish just in time for weigh in.

"You don’t realize they’re out there because the average fishermen doesn’t catch them with their rod and reel. But we can go down there and actually catch them with our pole spears,” said Ervin.

The species may be stunning to look at but experts say they’re dangerous and not just from the venomous spines on the top of its body.

Chandra Wright, Nature Tourism Specialist with Gulf Shores, Orange Beach Tourism, says the Lion Fish is non-native to the area.

The Lion Fish only recently showing up in our area after being released from aquariums in South Florida during the 1980’s.

Wright says they have no natural predators and a healthy appetite.

"They’ve been found with about 70 different prey species in their stomachs. They’re eating red snapper and grouper and trigger and shrimp and crabs and lobsters. So all the things we like to eat,” Wright said.

They continue to spread. Experts say a female fish can lay 40 thousand eggs every four days.

But the good news is they're tasty and most of the fish caught in the tournament will end up on local plates, whether at home or in restaurants.

"The seafood industry would go down significantly around here," said Ervin, "They’ve already seen it in the Keys and down there so we’re getting a head start on them by getting them early."

If you'd like to watch or try a Lion Fish dish, the Lion Fish Derby will continue tomorrow at the Flora Bama Ole River Bar and Grill from sunrise until weigh in around 5 p.m.

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