More than 650 red lionfish caught in Keys

— There are 659 fewer Indo-Pacific red lionfish occupying the waters of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

The final in a series lionfish derbies was held Saturday off the Lower Keys. Divers captured 109 of the invasive species, adding to the haul of previous contests in Key Largo and Marathon.

Lionfish off the southeast United States, Bahamas and the Caribbean harm indigenous fish because they eat important juvenile reef species, such as grouper and snapper.

Lad Akins of the Reef Environmental Education Foundation says lionfish have no known predators, except man.

They have venomous spines, but when properly cleaned, yield a white meat that is considered a delicacy. Saturday night’s derby banquet featured lionfish.

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