Lionfish threaten Florida's environment
CORAL GABLES, Fla. (WSVN) -- Officials are asking the public for help in taming Lionfish to save our environment.
It's officially open season on Lionfish. The Department of Fish and Wildlife is asking the public for help in taming the undersea predators.
The Lionfish is nice to look at, but it is extremely dangerous to Florida's underwater eco-system. "Lionfish is a non-native, invasive species that threaten salt water fish and wildlife. They prey on the native species and reproduce and spread quickly," said Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesperson Jessica McCawley.
The average Lionfish can spawn more than two million eggs a year. The gestation period is about 25 days. "Lionfish have spread throughout the state of Florida even to the Panhandle," said Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesperson John Hunt.
The Florida Department of Fish and Wildlife is turning to the public for help. For the next year, a license is not necessary to harvest Lionfish. "You no longer have to have a license if you have pole spear, a Hawaiian spear, a hand held net or any spearing device designed for market fish," said McCawley
Catching Lionfish can be dangerous, however. The creatures have an array of venomous spines surrounding their body, and getting poked can be very painful. The safest way to recover them is with a spear. "The cool thing with Lionfish is they're not very timid, so you can get up close to them, and if you haven't spooked them, they'll stay where they are," said Michelle Dancy, Biological Scientist at the Department of Fish and Wildlife.
While officials realize they cannot eradicate the Lionfish from Florida waters alone, they hope their new plan will encourage divers to help them get it under control so nature can eventually take over. "Maybe, over time, the other predators, the large predators of Florida will start to learn to prey upon Lionfish," said Hunt.
Lionfish have no natural predators, at this point. They cause many problems in Florida because they eat important indigenous fish such as grouper and snapper.
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