Here’s something you don’t see every day: divers and marine conservationists hunting one of the world’s most beautiful fishes. As unlikely as this may seem, this scene is becoming more prevalent since the introduction of exotic lionfish in the Gulf States. Lionfish are an invasive species from the Indo Pacific that were introduced into Atlantic waters in the mid-1980s and have dramatically reduced native fish populations due to their gluttonous predation.
The voracious feeders eat over 70 different species of fish and crustaceans and reproduce every four days. Armed with eighteen venomous spines, lionfish have no controlling predators in the Atlantic.Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF), a marine conservation nonprofit organization based out of Key Largo, Florida, is hosting workshops to teach divers and fishers how to safely remove lionfish from the ocean. Elizabeth Underwood, REEF Lionfish Program Coordinator, will be presenting on Thursday, May 14, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Tallahassee Museum, located at 3945 Museum Drive in Tallahassee. The workshop is free of charge and all are welcome, but registration is required due to limited seating (www.REEF.org/lionfish/workshops).
This lecture is part of a series of workshops throughout the Southeast United States funded by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. “Despite all of the grim news about lionfish decimating our native fish populations, we’re finding that local control efforts are very effective at keeping lionfish populations suppressed enough to allow recovery of our native species,” says Underwood. Divers can make a huge difference.Lionfish were first spotted near the Florida panhandle in 2010, and since then events have been held to increase awareness and encourage hunting and eating lionfish. REEF teaches divers and snorkelers to remove lionfish using nets or pole spears. Non-divers can help by ordering the tasty fish at restaurants.
REEF will also be presenting in New Orleans on May 6, Ocean Springs on May 7, Panama City on May 8th, Pensacola on May 11, and Mobile on May 12. More details and registration are online at www.REEF.org/lionfish/workshops.REEF is widely recognized as a leading authority in lionfish research, removal practices and educational outreach. Partnering with scientists and government agencies to conduct lionfish research and engage stakeholders in removals, REEF addresses the lionfish invasion at local, national and international levels.