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Lionfish

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WSVN -- This is a lionfish, they are beautiful creatures, but beware those spines contain venom that can cause a painful sting. These fish belong either in the Pacific or Indian Ocean or in an aquarium. Problem is lionfish have been let loose here with devastating results.

Vanessa McDonough: "The thought is that people have had these fish that they no longer wanted because they ate everything and released them into the ocean. And now we have a big enough population they are finding mates reproducing like wild now."

And they're eating everything in their path this government map shows the frightening spread of lionfish since they were first reported off the coast of Florida.

A team from the National Park Service is dealing with the invasion in Biscayne National Park. Since January, they have collected 600 lionfish and have seen firsthand the damage these voracious eaters are doing.

Katie Johnson: "Our native fish the groupers, the snappers, that is what the lionfish are primarily feeding on."

Amanda Lawrence: "When we find them, we'll either try to spear them or net them and sometimes they can be a little more difficult that others. We had one that we had to chase underneath a rock and then we were trying to shoo it out with the nets in order to spear it."

The National Park Service says lionfish are even showing up in upstate rivers and shallow waters in the Everglades.

Linda Friar: "They eat everything. They reproduce quickly they travel and make every place their home."

Since they have no natural predators it is up to humans to catch and kill them there have been lionfish derbies to promote kills and more are planned to encourage divers to compete for money prizes.

Carmel Cafiero: "If there is anything good about these guys it is that they are good to eat."

Intern: "You just take a pair of scissors or a knife and just cut along the base of its body and ta-da."

Once the spines are removed, a lionfish can be cooked in any number of ways we're told the white meat tastes like hogfish or snapper.

Linda Friar: "There's great fish recipes out there just for lionfish and we think if the public could help us out that would be one positive move toward trying to arrest their reproduction."

So if your summer travels take you underwater this year, report the location of any lionfish you see to the park service or better yet, catch them because if we can't beat them then we'll just have to eat them.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Biscayne National Park http://www.nps.gov/bisc/naturescience/exotic-lionfish.htm

Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary http://floridakeys.noaa.gov/lionfish.html

Lionfish Information & Resources http://www.reef.org/programs/exotic/lionfish/resources

Lionfish: From Sea to Tablehttp://www.ccfhr.noaa.gov/docs/Lionfish%20handling%20flyer.pdf

Lionfish Cookbookhttp://www.reef.org/catalog/cookbook

IF YOU HAVE A STORY FOR CARMEL TO INVESTIGATE:Miami-Dade: 305-627-CLUEBroward: 954-921-CLUE E-mail: clue@wsvn.com

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