Florida eases rules for capture, killing lionfish

Invasive species feeds off native fish population

Published On: Aug 30 2012 04:14:10 PM EDT   Updated On: Aug 13 2012 11:03:21 PM EDT
Lionfish
MIAMI -

The lionfish problem is spreading in the waters off South Florida as the invasive species with their poisonous quills feeds off and threatens the native fish population.

And now, the restrictions for capturing and killing them are being loosened because authorities need help in controlling the millions of lionfish in South Florida's waterways. In fact, you no longer need a permit.

"They are gluttons and predators. They are voracious feeders that will eat anything that moves that they can hunt down," says Lad Akins of R.E.E.F

For over three decades, these beautiful, but venomous, lionfish have been taking over the Atlantic and Caribbean and multiplying by the millions.

"We're talking about controlling, rather than eradicating," said John Hunt of the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation.
Many of these fish ended up in South Florida's waterways the same way that pythons took over the Everglades. They started out as pets in aquariums, but once they act like their namesake and devour everything in sight, they get tossed out to sea.

It's a big problem since they reproduce every four days.

But now the FWC is enlisting the help of fishermen and divers to control the population by removing the rules and restrictions placed on their killing and capture.

"No size limit, no bag limit, no season. Just go out and take lionfish," Akins says.

Enlisting help from boaters and swimmers to limit the lionfish population may actually help save other aquatic species currently at risk.

"A lot of what they're consuming are commercially imported species that we rely on, like grouper and snapper," Akins says.