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FWC announces new measures to combat lionfish

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FWC announces new measures to combat lionfish

By Gabrielle Sarann. CREATED Jun 18, 2014

FORT MYERS, Fla. - The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) announced several changes Wednesday aimed at combating the lionfish invasion in Florida waters.

FWC sees lionfish as an invasive species that have a negative impact on native wildlife and habitat.

"They have a negative impact on Florida's wildlife and habitat," said Amanda Nalley, a spokeswoman with FWC.

The new rules make it illegal to get lionfish from anywhere but Florida as way to encourage people to snatch more out of our waters. Also, deep sea divers are now allowed to spear for lionfish. And you can groups can now get a permit to fish for them in state parks.

"Their poulation is growing and they're showing up in areas where we used to not see them at all," explained Nalley. "They're definitely an issue in our waters."

The lionfish were first spotted in Lee County three years ago. They're now everywhere from small creeks to deep waters. Joe Verdino, the owner of Joefish Aquatics, doesn't think the plan will work.

"I think it's a knee-jerk reaction," said Verdino, who says there's little demand for the lionfish at his aquarium store because the fish can't be paired with smaller fish that wind up as prey.

"Unfortuantely, i dont think that banning import is going to stop the spread of what's alreaady happening in our local waters," said Verdino.

Beginning on August 1 FWC will prohibit the importation of live lionfish.

FWC will also allow the harvest of lionfish when diving with a rebreather.  FWC will set up a permitting system to allow for tournaments and other organized events for spearing lionfish.