Greater than 180 divers mixed to spear 21,146 invasive lionfish in Florida’s coastal waters between Could 21 and September 6 in the course of the state’s sixth annual Lionfish Challenge. Brooks Feeser of Jupiter completed in first place within the leisure division with 1,632 fish eliminated, whereas Rachel Bowman of Marathon received the business division. She harvested 730 kilos of lionfish. A complete of 185 divers harvested fish within the competitors, which was sponsored by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Fee. Participation within the annual occasion was at an all-time excessive.
That is excellent news for the native fish species alongside Florida’s reefs, which have been beneath siege since lionfish first appeared within the western Atlantic within the Eighties, almost definitely as aquarium pets launched into the wild. The invaders, that are endemic to the Indo-Pacific, have since unfold throughout the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. They’ve voracious appetites and few pure predators. Their weight loss program consists of fish that preserve coral reefs freed from algae. A feminine lionfish can produce as much as 2 million eggs per 12 months.
The dimensions of the lionfish inhabitants is just not identified, neither is it clear whether or not the problem and different lionfish contests are making a dent. “We are able to say, anecdotally, that now we have heard of individuals seeing much less lionfish on generally visited reefs, which might be an indication of individuals figuring out extra the best way to harvest and taking motion,” stated Amanda Nalley, a spokeswoman for the Florida FWC. “There are additionally different elements that might be at play as properly, together with a latest illness that has impacted lionfish, in addition to them presumably transferring into deeper waters. Regardless, each little bit of lionfish elimination helps management the lionfish inhabitants and is one thing to be celebrated.”
Scientists and wildlife administration companies are experimenting with lionfish traps, however thus far, spearfishing is the first technique of elimination. Florida has no bag restrict nor closed season for lionfish. Fortuitously, the invader is considered to be a good-eating fish. These keen to snorkel or SCUBA dive for them can typically promote their catch. The Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF), based mostly in Key Largo, maintains a listing of eating places the place lionfish is on the menu.
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The REEF is a key participant within the effort to watch and reply to the infestation. Lionfish “have been documented alongside all the U.S. East Coast from Florida by way of Massachusetts, east to Bermuda and south all through the Caribbean,” the group notes. “The growth has been extraordinarily fast and exponential in scope.”