Florida makes the hunting of lionfish easier for divers


Florida, U.S., has made it easier for divers to remove the invasive lionfish from state waters and to kill as many of them as they can.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) waived the recreational license requirement for divers harvesting lionfish using certain gear.

There was also a vote to remove lionfish from the commercial and recreational bag limits, meaning people can take as many of the fish as they can. Previously, the limit was up to 100lb without a commercial license.

The lionfish can now be caught, without a recreational license, with hand-held nets, pole spears, Hawaiian slings or any other spearing devices designed and marketed exclusively for lionfish,

An order in August 2012 allowed harvesting lionfish with the same gear and without a license, however this would expire on 3 August this year. The timing of this new rule mean there won't be a lapse in the permissions.

Lionfish are widely distributed throughout the western Pacific from southern Japan to Micronesia, Australia and the Philippines.

The fish escaped into the Atlantic around 15 years ago and they now reach the Caribbean and Connecticut.

The invasive species wreaks havock on natives, including about 50 species of fish, crab, shrimp and other Indian River Lagoon life.

The fish was first spotted in the lagoon region in 2010, inside Sebastian Inlet, and have now been found as far north as the Trident Basin inside Port Canaveral.

FWC urges researchers and others to catch lionfish and preserve them so biologists can study their movement, diet and whether they contain ciguatera toxin which can make people ill if eaten.

They say the most effective way to hunt the fish is with a spear or hand-held net.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration launched an "Eat Lionfish" campaign previously and in some areas there have been drives to think up recipes for lionfish fillets.

Whilst officials want lionfish killed, they warn of their venomous spines and encourage people not to handle them.