On August 3, 2012, the Executive Director of Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission signed an order allowing citizens and tourists to take an unlimited harvest of lionfish without a fishing license. Commercial fisherman can also take as much as they like under the yearlong decree, which even waives bycatch limits for this invasive species.
Media outlets from several Gulf of Mexico states are reporting that populations in their waters have exploded since they were first spotted over a year ago. Lionfish are gluttonous top predators that eat everything they can fit in their large mouths, threatening to de-populate entire coral reefs of juvenile fish and small invertebrates, which grow into the next generation of reef denizens. Since they have no natural predators, wildlife and fisheries managers in the Gulf, the Caribbean, and along the east coast of the U.S. are encouraging people to hunt lionfish down by any means necessary.
The National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science has been at the forefront of lionfish research and remains a strong advocate of market solutions to reduce their population.