Have you ever seen a Lionfish? Lionfish are a gorgeous-looking, aquarium-prized fish with red-and-white zebra stripes and long, showy, needle-like fins. However, if you do catch one, and you are not at the Indian or South Pacific oceans, it is advised that you remove it from the water and alert your local marine conservation agency. Lionfish are invading waterways across the globe. The fish wreak havoc on any marine environment as they devour native fish populations in waters that they have no known predators in. Scientists and marine conservation organizations are trying to eliminate the species from waters they are not native to.
Earlier this week, while fishing just 200 yards from shore near the Ritz Carlton in Naples, Florida, Mike Damanski landed a “15- or 16-ounce” red lionfish on the end of his line. It was the first documented case of the species within the state water boundary of Collier County and the news attracted serious attention.
The lionfish, hardy and adaptable to a variety of habitats, can cause irreparable harm to the fragile underwater ecosystem because they have a voracious appetite for a broad diet, and can easily wipe out a population of juvenile fish that rely on the reef habitat for protection. They also compete for resources with native species such as snapper or the commercially crucial grouper. Once a population of lionfish has moved in, the existing marine life on a reef can be reduced by 80 percent in just a few weeks. The lionfish made it from their native habitat of indo Pacific to the Caribbean in the mid-1980s, and they have spread like a plague over the last decade, causing concerned in the United States.
“I know they are destroying our reefs so we killed it and tossed it in the cooler.” Damanski said.
Current fishing regulations regarding lionfish are under review and discussion. The rule enacted by the Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) in August of 2012 makes lionfish an unregulated species that did not require a license to catch. However, lionfish are rarely taken by hook-and-line. The only control method to be even remotely successful is spearing, but FWC prohibits the use of a spearing device. Members of the local spearfishing community would like to see those laws changed.
For now, let’s rely on scientists and coastal managers to control the spread of invasive lionfish. A new manual created by National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, Invasive Lionfish: A Guide to Control and Management, includes the best available science and practices for controlling lionfish in marine protected areas, national parks, and other conservation areas
For more information on the Lionfish please visit GR8-White to view an Invasive Lionfish Guide to Control and Management Booklet.