The presence of the invasive lionfish in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida has prompted the state’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to take action. They’ve developed an app to control the nonstop growth of the lionfish population.
The lionfish possesses up to 18 needle-like dorsal fins that can deliver venom. It’s naturally defensive, and utilizes its camouflage and fast reflexes to capture prey. They can even harm humans and cause nausea and breathing difficulties with their venomous sting. The lionfish is native to reefs and rocky crevices, and they’ve made their way to Florida’s Atlantic coast 25 years ago.
But wildlife officials have had enough with the lionfish’s growing and invasive presence in the state’s waters. Its insatiable appetite forces it to prey on Florida’s native fish, including yellowtail snapper, Nassau grouper, and banded coral shrimp. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) says that the lionfish are negatively impacting Florida’s reefs and marine wildlife.
“The lionfish has no known natural predators in the Atlantic … and the ability to spawn year-round,” according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, in this NBC News article.
“They can eliminate species that serve important ecological roles such as fish that keep algae in check on the reefs,” added the FWC.
On Wednesday, the FWC revealed their “Report Florida Lionfish” app and the first 250 people that register for it will receive a free t-shirt. The app will provide users with information about the lionfish, safe handling guidelines, and a data reporting form. The FWC wants people to report when and where they see a lionfish so the FWC can track their location and presence. This will hopefully help remove the invasive fish from the waters they pollute.
Those interested can also report a lionfish spotting at www.MyFWC.com/fishing. However, these strategies still might not solve the lionfish problem. The females reproduce at an exceptional rate by releasing two gelatinous egg masses containing between 12,000-15,000 eggs each. They can drift for about 25 days and lionfish can spawn every four days in warmer climates.
It will be interesting to see how the FWC and other wildlife officials handle the data provided by the app’s users.