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Entries in lionfish (12)


Florida's New Regulations Help Combat Lionfish Invasion

Florida is known as a tourist-friendly state, but starting Aug. 1, one visitor will no longer be welcome: the invasive lionfish.

Introduced into Florida waters in the late 1980s, lionfish populations have boomed in recent years, negatively impacting native wildlife and habitat.

Go here to learn about the threat that they pose to native fish species.

Several management changes go into effect Aug. 1 that will help the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) combat the growing problem by making it easier for lionfish hunters to remove the spiny predators and limiting further introduction of the species into the waters.

Changes include:

  • Prohibiting the importation of live lionfish;
  • Allowing lionfish to be removed via spearfishing when diving with a rebreather, a device that recycles air and allows divers to remain in the water for longer periods of time (currently, you cannot spear any fish when using a rebreather); and
  • Allowing participants of approved tournaments and other organized events to spear lionfish or other invasive species in areas where spearfishing is not currently allowed (such as certain state parks or refuges). This will be done through a permitting system.

See or catch a lionfish? Report a sighting by downloading the new Report Florida Lionfish app on a smart device or by visiting and clicking on “Recreational Regulations” (under “Saltwater”) and then “Lionfish.”

To learn more about lionfish, visit and click on “Saltwater,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Lionfish.”


Reef fish, Coral at Risk as Lionfish Dominate South Florida Waters

How much damage are exotic lionfish doing to native species and ecosystems in the Gulf of Mexico? Here’s what says:

Lionfish have no known predators because they do not belong in these waters. There is nothing here to eat them, and nothing to stop them from consuming all of South Florida's reef fish. 

Lionfish were once among the top 10 imported tropical fish for aquariums, but when the lionfish grew too large aquarium owners began dumping the fish into the waters of the Atlantic.  Now they are breeding at a pace so rapid that scientists and volunteers are feverishly trying to fight the invasion.  To do this they are studying and collecting the lionfish, trying to eliminate a species now found in deep as well as shallow waters.  

Dr. Mark A. Hixon, professor of zoology, and a team of graduate and undergraduate students from Oregon State University have demonstrated that a single lionfish can reduce the population of juvenile fish on small coral reefs by 80 percent in just five weeks.  One large lionfish can consume 20 smaller coral reef fish in a 30-minute period.

Lionfish are carnivores that can eat other fish up to two-thirds their own length.

The  loss  of  the herbivorous fish  on  the  reefs  will  set  the  stage  for  seaweed to potentially overwhelm the coral reefs and disrupt the stability of the environment in which they exist. Once established, lionfish will destroy our reefs and throw our entire ecosystem out of balance  leaving  our  coral  reefs  to  die  and seaweed to take over.

Go here to learn more.


Lionfish Threat Grows in Florida Waters

MyFWCmedia photo.

Exotic lionfish are on the increase in Florida waters, and, in response, the state has eliminated the recreational bag limit through August of 2013. It also has removed the need to have a recreational fishing license when using certain types of spears and dip nets.

“With these changes, which are designed to encourage lionfish-control efforts, the only thing that limits your lionfish hunting is your ability to shoot and the size of your cooler,” says Alan Peirce of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

During the past few years, the population has exploded along the southeast coast, including the Keys.

“Today, we are seeing them in places we’ve never seen them before, including the northern areas of the Gulf of Mexico, as their numbers are increasing rapidly,” Peirce continues.

What’s the problem?

Since lionfish are not native to these waters, they have no natural enemies. That means little or no control of their population. And as their numbers grow, they crowd out native species and/or eat them. This hurts recreational fishing and, in turn, the economies that depend on it.

“Now I don’t want to sound like an alarmist, but this is a serious situation that needs our full attention,” Peirce says.

“This is especially true for those who scuba dive and snorkel in Florida. As it turns out, harvesting by spear or dip net is currently our best means of controlling the species and minimizing the negative consequences.

“Pole spears with multipronged ‘paralyzer’ tips have proved to be the safest and most effective tool for harvest. Puncture-resistant harvest bags and buckets with a rigid funnel entrance can also be used to safely transfer the fish from the spear to the container while avoiding contact with their venomous barbs.”

For more information about lionfish in Florida waters, go here. Also, REEF is a good source.


Florida Encourages Harvest of Exotic Lionfish to Protect Fisheries

Florida officials have initiated an aggressive new strategy in hopes of preventing exotic lionfish from decimating fisheries.

A fishing license is not required to harvest the invaders by spear and hand-held nets. The license requirement still is in place for those who fish with hook and line, but lionfish rarely are taken by that method.

"They (divers) are our best possible chance to control them," said John Hunt, director of the Conservation Commission's Fish and Wildlife Research Institute lab in the Florida Keys.

Hunt also acknowledged that the predatory fish from the South Pacific and Indian Ocean never will be eradicated from Florida waters.

Lionfish were first identified on Florida’s east coast in 1985, likely as a result of being released by aquarium hobbyists. Since 2009, however, sightings have become common all along the coast and up into the northern Gulf of Mexico.

Resource managers fear that they will outcompete native fish for food and eliminate organisms that keep reefs healthy.

"We don't have all the evidence yet, but we're concerned," Hunt said.

Read the full story here.


Invasive Species Carnage: So We Won't Forget 

When I started writing about the threat posed by Asian carp years ago, I received an angry letter from a reader. He was 75 years old, he said, and he had seen carp in our waters since he was a child.

In short, he wanted to know why I was trying to scare people about something that “is no big deal.”

What I quickly realized was that he didn’t realize that I was writing about silver and bighead carp, which started spreading through our rivers about 20 years ago. He thought that I was referring to the common carp, which has been around for more than a century.

Now here’s the kicker: The common carp is an introduced exotic species also. But it has become so pervasive in our waterways that most people, including that reader, don’t realize that it’s also an invader.

They don’t know of the damage that it’s done by disrupting ecological balance in our fisheries, notably degrading water quality, crowding out native species, and uprooting beneficial vegetation.

Twenty or 30 years from now, will we also accept the damage done by Asian carp, zebra mussels, and dozens of other invaders as “normal”?

Maybe the following will help us remember:

Lionfish Gobbling Up Native Species

Originally from the Indian and Pacific oceans, lionfish now are spreading throughout the Caribbean, as well as up the Atlantic Coast. Likely they were accidentally introduced into North American waters by the aquarium trade during the 1990s.

Lad Akins of REEF, a marine conservation group says this:

"They are eating almost anything that fits in their mouth. The lionfish can probably consume in excess of half of its own body size. They can take quite large prey.”

And this:

"I'm an optimist but potential impacts of lionfish could result in major shifts in the ecology of our Caribbean and West Atlantic reef barriers. It could result in the extinction of some fish species."

Read more here.


Eagle Deaths Linked to Exotic Plant

Bald eagles are dying because of hydrilla, an exotic plant that can provide good fish habitat, but often becomes so dense that it smothers native aquatic species and prevents boating and outdoor recreation.

Most recently, eight eagles were found dead of avian vacuolar myelinopathy at Lake Thurmond on the Georgia/South Carolina border.  Eleven died there last year.

The disease is caused by an alga that grows on the hydrilla. Small birds consume the alga and, in turn, are eaten by the eagles.

Read more here.


Invasive Pythons Now Targeting Everglades Birds

Even as they decimate native mammals in the Florida Everglades, Burmese pythons also have begun feeding on birds and their eggs.

Researcher Carla Dove says this:

“This finding is significant because it suggests that the Burmese python is not simply a sit-and-wait predator, but rather is opportunistic enough to find the nests of birds.

"Although the sample size is small, these findings suggest that the snakes have the potential to negatively affect the breeding success of birds.”

Read more here.


Exotic Mussels Choke Off Access

Mounds of zebra mussel shells are creating barriers to boating, as well as blocking fish and fresh water flow in Wisconsin’s Lake Winnebago.

One lakefront property owner says this:

"The channels have become where they won't be able to be used in a couple years. I bought my house because it has great access to the lake. If I can't get access, the property's useless."

Read more here.