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Applications for the 2024 trips are now closed. Trip dates and applications for 2025 will be posted Oct. 1st, 2024.

All trips begin at El Toro Restaurant in Clute, Texas on
Sunday at 5pm. We plan to be back at the dock in
Freeport, Texas on Thursday morning by 9am.

Project Description

The invasion of lionfish in the Gulf of Mexico is a situation of rapidly increasing magnitude. This invasive species, known for its voracious appetite, venomous spines and rapid reproduction, is significantly affecting native marine species throughout the western Atlantic Ocean, including the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea. Complete lionfish eradication is not an option with current technology, given the species' broad depth tolerance (1,000 feet) and habitat distribution. However, control on a local scale has proven successful. Building on these successes, Lionfish Invitational is partnering with Texas Caribbean Charters to allow trained divers to help conduct research and remove invasive lionfish within FGBNMS and the Gulf of Mexico. A federal collection permit will be issued for three-day lionfish research cruises onboard the recreational dive charter vessel M/V Fling.

The goals and objectives of the project are to:

  1. Conduct research to increase the knowledge of invasive lionfish distribution and predator/ prey relationships in coral communities at FGBNMS.

  2. Reduce the impact of lionfish on reef habitats and native fish populations by removing lionfish from the upper 100 feet of FGBNMS.

  3. Assess effectiveness of diver removal efforts on lionfish populations and native fish communities.

  4. Increase public awareness of invasive lionfish impacts, and provide training in safe and effective lionfish collection and handling techniques.

About Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary

Located in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico, FGBNMS includes 17 different banks located off the Texas and Louisiana coastlines.  Three of these banks, East Flower Garden Bank, West Flower Garden Bank, and Stetson Banks, are the focus of the Lionfish Invitational expeditions and include the northernmost coral reefs in the continental United States.  These areas are a diver's paradise.  FGBNMS has partnered with Lionfish Invitational to promote monitoring and lionfish removal within the Sanctuary.

Lionfish were introduced into the Western Atlantic in the late 1980s, and most likely entered theGulf of Mexico by means of larval transport. In the fall of 2010, lionfish were observed at Sonnier Bank and nearby oil and gas platforms. In July of 2011, lionfish were observed on East and West Flower Garden Banks and Stetson Bank. For more information about the Sanctuary, go to

About Texas Parks & Wildlife

In 1895, the Texas legislature created the Fish & Oyster Commission to regulate fish harvesting. Over time, this agency was combined with the Game Department and the State Parks Board to create TPWD to for the purpose of managing and protecting all of Texas’ wildlife, fish, and their habitats. Their mission statement is to manage and conserve  the natural and cultural resources of Texas and to provide hunting, fishing, and other outdoor recreations opportunities for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. The Artificial Reef Program, created in 1990 as a program within the Coastal Fisheries Division, promotes, develops, maintains, monitors and enhances the artificial reef potential of Texas offshore waters. TPWD has partnered with Lionfish Invitational to promote monitoring and lionfish removal at sites in their Rigs-to-Reefs Program (decommissioned oil and gas rigs) and their Ships-to-Reefs Program (large intentionally sunk marine vessels).  


Eligibility Requirements

To apply, each diver must:

  • be at least 21 years of age;

  • be able to swim;

  • be at least a certified Advance Open Water scuba diver, or higher certification level. The Rigs trip requires a minimum of Rescue or Divemaster certification (participants must present valid diver certification cards for all trips);

  • be a Nitrox certified diver;

  • have conducted a minimum of 25 dives in the past 12 months; or provide the total number of dives logged since becoming a diver

  • have DAN or other dive-specific insurance.

Participant Benefits

Participants will:

  • participate in the 4-day research cruises at FGBNMS on board the M/V Fling;

  • learn about invasive lionfish, research, and field techniques through a lionfish collecting workshop and handling course;

  • compile data and assist with research efforts;

  • build relationships with others interested in invasive lionfish control and research;

  • be immersed in field activities that raise awareness of invasive lionfish and ocean conservation;

  • gain hands on experience that can be utilized in future lionfish control efforts; and

  • assist with marine sanctuary resource protection efforts.

Provided to Divers

All divers will receive:

  • three days of diving, including Nitrox;

  • meals and dorm-style live-aboard accommodations;

  • workshop training in lionfish collecting and handling;

  • use of lionfish collecting/handling equipment and materials; and

  • educational resources and materials

Participation Requirements

Selected divers will be required to:

  • travel to and from Freeport, TX;

  • attend the lionfish handling course to be held at 5 p.m. in Clute, TX on the Sunday your trip begins;

  • room with other divers in bunk-style accommodations;

  • scuba dive at FGBNMS and rigs using safe scuba diving techniques;

  • conduct themselves in a responsible manner as volunteers representing Lionfish Invitational;

  • remove only lionfish using approved gear;

  • assist with data collection and lionfish processing;

  • complete and sign all applications, liability waivers and releases.

  • Trip fee: Our 2024 trip fee is $500 for Science Team and $700 for the Hunting Team. The trip fee now includes gratuity for the M/V Fling and dinner during the mandatory pre-trip briefing. 

  • As of 2024, the trip fee is now non-refundable unless we are able to fill your spot.  If you are unable to make the trip, Lionfish Invitational will do everything possible to fill your spot from our waitlist. If your spot is filled, you WILL receive a refund. If your spot is not able to be filled, you will NOT receive a refund, but you WILL automatically have a spot on one of the following year’s trips.

How to Apply

  1. Complete all sections of the application. You will need pictures of both sides of your cert card, nitrox card, and DAN card if selected.

  2. Decide if you are Stabber or a Labber.  Each trip is divided into 2 teams, the Science Team and the Hunting Team. The Science Team lays transect lines, conducts fish surveys, and is responsible for data entry. The Hunting team is focused on lionfish removal. BOTH teams have the opportunity during the trip to hunt and ‘science’,  however your team designation is how you will conduct most of your dives. There is a difference in the fee, a Science spot is $500, a hunting spot is $700. (Note: there are NO AVAILABLE Science spots on the Rigs trip.)

  3. Submit your application by midnight on Friday, March 1st. Applicants will be selected and notified no later than Wednesday, March 6th.

Additional Questions?

Please contact: Rachel Bowman

Join Our Upcoming Trips and Make a Difference

Join Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary and Texas Parks & Wildlife for the 2024 Lionfish Invitational Research Expeditions.

Our 2024 trip fee is $500 for Science Team and $700 for the Hunting Team. The trip fee now includes gratuity for the M/V Fling and dinner during the mandatory pre-trip briefing. 

The expeditions will take place on the following dates:

- June 23 to 27 (FGBNMS & Kraken)
- August 11 to 15 (Rigs & Platforms)
- September 8 to 12 (FGBNMS & Kraken)

Don't miss this opportunity to participate in these exciting research expeditions!

2024 Lionfish Invitational Applications have closed.

To proceed with your application, kindly fill out the form below.  Applicants will be notified by March 6th of the results of the selection 

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