Spearfishing tournament aims to combat invasive lionfish - Greenville, NC | News | Weather | Sports - WNCT.com

Spearfishing tournament aims to combat invasive lionfish

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If you can't beat ‘em, eat ‘em. That's the approach some in Carteret County are taking to combat the invasive lionfish species.

Friday kicked off the first day of the 1st annual Lionfish/Lobster Spearfishing Tournament in Carteret County. Whoever catches the most lionfish over the next 10 days wins a $500 prize.

About 10 people have signed up to compete, said NOAA biologist James Morris, who is involved with the tournament.

Lionfish are not native to the Atlantic Ocean, and they've been invading North Carolina's coast for more than 10 years, impacting the local scuba diving and commercial fishing industry, said Morris.

"Not only do they eat the juvenile fish of some of our commercial fish, like grouper and trigger fish, but then they're also eating the fish and organisms that are commercial species," said Janelle Fleming, a research scientist at the UNC Institute of Marine Sciences.

Fleming says she doesn't expect the tournament to put a significant dent in the lionfish population. The main goal of the tournament is to raise awareness about the problem, she said.

The tournament is sponsored by two nonprofits: Carteret Catch, representing the seafood industry, and the Eastern Carolina Artificial Reef Association. It is also sponsored by the scuba diving business Discovery Diving and seafood restaurant Bistro by the Sea.

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