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NC fishing tournament targets lionfish, an unwanted guest in coastal waters

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NC fishing tournament targets lionfish, an unwanted guest in coastal waters

A fishing tournament in Morehead City this spring aims to reduce the numbers of a destructive invasive species of fish that’s hard to catch.

The first annual “If you can’t beat ‘em, eat ‘em” spearfishing tournament aims to educate the public about lionfish, a delicious but rarely eaten invasive species off the North Carolina coast, event coordinator Janelle Fleming said. Lionfish are native to the Pacific Ocean and have become unwanted guests of the coast in recent years.

“They have no (known) natural predators, they eat everything and they reach sexual maturity very early,” Fleming said. “It’s a problem. And it’s a problem for fisherman around here because all those lionfish will eat juvenile groupers and juvenile fish that all the fishermen are trying to catch.”

A $500 prize will go to the person who catches the most lionfish. There are smaller $250 prizes for the person who catches the longest lobster and another $250 prize for various other edible fish. The tournament also encourages residents to eat local seafood, Fleming said.

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