David Garrett

Dinah Voyles Pulver @DinahVP

When it comes to the exotic, invasive lionfish, David Garrett is a one-man army.

The Ormond Beach fisherman won a state contest for collecting more lionfish than anyone else in the state over a 4.5 month period. But Garrett feels the efforts to remove the fish are barely making a dent and wishes his victory could help catapult his struggling non-profit, Lionfish Eliminators, to a more prominent role in long-term efforts to rid Florida of the invasive striped fish.

Garett won the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Lionfish Challenge by spearing 3,324 lionfish. He will be recognized at the commission’s November meeting.

The challenge was “a way to get people excited about lionfish, to get them interested and keep them talking about it,” said Amanda Nalley, a wildlife commission spokeswoman.

“David did an extraordinarily great job,” Nalley said. The next closest fisherman to Garrett had 2,408. In total, more than 16,600 fish were removed.

Garrett, a retired U.S. Army major, has been diving and fishing off the coast of Volusia and Flagler counties since moving here in 2005. He does a little diving instruction on the side and a little commercial fishing. He became concerned about the proliferation of lionfish as he watched them show up in larger numbers on some of his favorite diving grounds.

The invasive fish, native to the Indian Ocean and western Pacific Ocean, were likely introduced to the Caribbean through the aquarium trade. They were first spotted in Florida waters in the mid-1980s and have spread up the Atlantic coast and across the Gulf of Mexico. They have up to 18 venomous spines and are known to consume dozens of native fish species and other marine life. 

The wildlife commission has no way to know how many lion fish there are,

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