The Emerald Coast Open and ‘Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day’, previously scheduled for September 12-13th, has been cancelled amid COVID-19 concerns.
The event organizers stated that it was a very difficult decision, but the attendees’ and staff’s health and safety is their first concern.
“A lot of folks put in a lot of work to make this event happen,” said Alex Fogg, Coastal Resource Manager for Destin-Fort Walton Beach, Florida. “While it’s unfortunate we have to cancel this year, we will be back bigger and better in 2021. We hope to see everyone at next year’s tournament, which is scheduled for May 14-16, 2021.”
There is some good news, however, this year’s pre-tournament will still run through September 9, 2020, and it’s not too late to participate. With the cancelation of the main event, the pre-tournament will feature bigger prizes and awards.
There will be $10,000 in prize money divided among participants that shoot at least 25 lionfish and the award will be based on the percentage of lionfish turned in.
For example, if a participant shoots 10% of the total fish turned in, they will receive 10% of the $10,000 total award amount. The top six shooters will receive trophies and have the honor of naming one of the unnamed Destin-Fort Walton Beach artificial reef sites. All pre-tournament participants will receive this year’s t-shirt and discounted entry to the 2021 event.
Emerald Coast Open Restaurant Week is also still a go. According to Fogg, all of the fish that are donated during the pre- tournament will be served at local restaurants August 17-20 and September 8-11, 2020.
A schedule of when and where you can find lionfish on local menus will be shared soon.
And, of course, you can always participate in the FWC’s 2020 Lionfish Challenge, which has been extended until Nov. 1, 2020. Learn more at FWCReefRangers.com.