Getting Back to Business Removing Lionfish
Lionfish are an invasive species introduced to Florida in the 1980s. Since their introduction, lionfish populations have quickly spread throughout the western Atlantic, the Caribbean, and the Gulf of Mexico. Lionfish can reproduce quickly, have no natural predators, and feed on a wide variety of native species. Because of this, lionfish have the potential to negatively impact our native ecosystems.
The FWC Lionfish Control Team is dedicated to controlling lionfish populations and has many different incentive programs to encourage the harvesting of lionfish and to educate the public on the impact of invasive lionfish. Whether you’re a diver or not, you can help us in our mission to control lionfish populations in Florida!
Lionfish Harvest Programs
The Lionfish Harvest Programs are open to both commercial and recreational divers and involve direct monetary reimbursements for lionfish harvest. The Recreational Lionfish Harvest Program aims to encourage recreational divers to harvest lionfish in an effort to increase the number removed from Florida waters. The Commercial Lionfish Harvest Program works in a similar manner, providing incentive for commercial divers to harvest lionfish and sell their fish to licensed wholesale dealers.
Tournament Assistance Program
Since localized removal efforts, such as tournaments, have been shown to be effective in reducing lionfish populations, the FWC created a Tournament Assistance Program, which provides funding to encourage lionfish harvesting through organized tournaments.
The Lionfish Challenge is a summer-long tournament that rewards divers for their lionfish harvests. The tournament is open to everyone and is completely free to enter. Divers receive prizes as they make their way up through the tiers and compete for the title of the Lionfish King/Queen or Commercial Champion. This year’s Challenge runs from May 21 to Sept. 6 (Labor Day).
Lionfish Educational Exhibit Program
In an effort to provide consistent and accurate information about the lionfish invasion, FWC created the lionfish Educational Exhibit Program, also known as LEEP. Facilities who are committed to encouraging public awareness of coastal issues in Florida can apply for the Lionfish Educational Exhibit Program to receive funds to create a lionfish exhibit or upgrade an existing one. FWC provides graphics and educational information to be displayed along with the exhibit.
Teachers and students can prepare for an invasion of information about lionfish. The FWC has a library full of educational materials online for teachers and educators to conduct lessons on lionfish and their invasion in Florida waters. In addition, the Lionfish Control Team staff visit classrooms and conduct lionfish dissections as part of their Classroom Invasion program.
You can also keep up with the Lionfish Control Team on their Facebook page, Facebook.com/FWCReefRangers.