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Outdoors & Recreation
FWC begins war on invasive lionfish
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[Image]
Photo by KEITH MILLE/FWC
A diver catches a lionfish in a bag.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission recently moved forward with steps to combat the spread of invasive lionfish, a species that threatens Florida’s native wildlife.

Changes proposed by FWC staff on April 16 will be brought back before the commission at its June meeting in Fort Myers for final approval.

Changes include:

• 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.

Staff has been working with the Florida Legislature on a bill in support of the initiatives to prohibit the importation of live lionfish and the aquaculture of lionfish.

“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,” said State Rep. Holly Raschein, sponsor of the House bill. “These fish pose a significant threat to Florida’s ecosystem, and I am proud to stand in support of the proposed ban. Anything we can do to limit new lionfish introductions and further facilitate the development of a commercial market for this invasive species is a step in the right direction.”

Changes like these will make it easier for divers to remove lionfish from Florida waters and will help prevent additional introductions of lionfish into marine habitats.

Lionfish control efforts, from outreach and education to regulatory changes, have been a priority for FWC staff. In 2013, they hosted the first ever Lionfish Summit, which brought together various stakeholders from the public as well as management and research fields to discuss the issues and brainstorm solutions. The changes proposed at the April meeting came from ideas that were discussed at the Lionfish Summit.

To learn more about these changes, visit MyFWC.com/Commission and “Commission Meetings.” To learn more about lionfish, visit MyFWC.com/Fishing and click on “Saltwater,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Lionfish.”
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