Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Lionfish Invasion: FWC Fights Back with Improved Management

Diver in wetsuit in dark blue water with lionfish on yellow spear

April 17. 2014

In a positive effort to control Florida’s out of control lionfish population the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is one step closer to banning the import and aquaculture of lionfish.

The lionfish (Pterois volitans) is an exotic invasive predatory reef fish native to the Indo-Pacific and Red Sea and  of significant threat to Florida’s native saltwater fish, wildlife, and ecosystems.

With this in mind, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission on April 16, 2014 went forward with steps to further combat the spread and impact of the lionfish.

Final approval of the new plans will take place by the Commission in a meeting in Fort Myers in June.

FWC staff in conjunction with the Florida Legislature has been working on a bill to address the following changes:

  • Prohibiting the importation of live lionfish
  • Prohibiting the development of aquaculture of lionfish
  • Allowing the harvest of lionfish when diving with a rebreather, a device that recycles air and allows divers to remain in the water for longer periods of time
  • Increasing opportunities that will allow participants in approved tournaments and other organized events to spear lionfish or other invasive species in areas where spearfishing is not allowed. This will be done through a permitting system.

State Representive Holly Raschein, sponsor of the house bill stated in an FWC news release that “by targeting the importation of lionfish to our state, we can limit the number of new lionfish that find their way into Florida waters and, at the same time, encourage further harvest to reduce the existing invasive population.”

Upon approval, the bill will make it easier for Florida’s divers to harvest and remove lionfish while also helping to minimize future introductions of this invasive species to Florida’s marine habitats.

Currently, FWC strongly encourages the public to remove lionfish to help reduce the negative environmental impacts these fish are having on Florida waters.  Although the flesh of the lionfish is not poisonous, and is edible,  they do have 18 venomous spines that need to be avoided during capture and handling to avoid painful injuries.

There is no recreational or commercial bag limit on lionfish in Florida and they can be speared, caught in hand-held nets, or caught by hook and line.

Under the new ban aquarium shops will be allowed to buy lionfish off of divers who harvest the fish from Florida waters.

Additional information on the lionfish problem, the impacts, lionfish description, as well as the biology of the species can be found at FWC website.


Lionfish distribution map in Florida waters, the carribbean, and the gulf of mexico
Map of lionfish distribition from the original introduction off the coast of Miami in 1985 to their current 2014 locations. souce: usgs


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