Anglers in the Sunshine State can help aid the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission by netting some lionfish. Lionfish, also known as Pterois, is a venomous species not native to Florida waters.
According to the Associated Press, Florida officials temporarily waived license requirements on fishing the species with spears, nets and slings last August for the purpose of decreasing the lionfish population. Now the commission is meeting to discuss permanent regulations that will make the lionfish easier to catch.
Florida recognizes lionfish as an invasive species and a threat to the state’s saltwater wildlife. The species was first reported seen in Florida waters during the 1980s, but have since then became increasingly widespread. Lionfish are voracious hunters and are having a noticeable effect on the ecosystems they are introduced to. While their diet consists of mostly small fish, these species are vital to coral reefs that support a multitude of marine life. Research done by Dr. Mark A. Hixon of Oregon University found that a single lionfish can consume up to 20 smaller reef fish in just a 30 minute period. Lionfish hunt using short range blasts of water to disorient prey, which is all too effective on domestic species such as snapper. Its venomous ray fins are also a hazard for recreational divers.
Even in their native environment lionfish have few known predators. They can be described as aggressive, especially towards prey fish and are threat to Florida’s popular diving industry. Even so, they remain a popular aquirium attraction for their beauty, and have a delicious, subtly flavored flesh that is often compared to snapper. Lionfish are a highly valued delicacy in many countries.
Florida officials would prefer if they remained on the dinner plate instead of out on the water. Changes to lionfish regulations will be finalized in June.