KISSIMMEE (CBSMiami/AP) – Florida wildlife officials have banned the breeding of lionfish in the state as a last ditch effort to eradicate the invasive species.
Lionfish are a non-native, invasive species of fish that have no natural predators in the Atlantic. Experts have stated the fish is a menace to the native wildlife.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission voted on Wednesday to ban the breeding of lionfish in captivity, which takes effect in December.
Officials at the meeting in Kissimmee did make an exception for researchers studying lionfish population control.
The ban on breeding comes after the FWC implemented several measures to tame the lionfish dilemma.
First, officials encouraged fishermen to harvest the predatory fish. When encouragement was not enough to raise interest, they waived the required license needed to hunt the lionfish.
The fast-breeding monster expanded their territory into deeper waters, which was became a hassle for divers harvesting the fish.
“We are capable of doing a good job of controlling lionfish at diveable depths, in shallower areas. Divers and spearfishers can go in and remove the fish. But the lionfish are abundant in large numbers at these deeper habitats, and that’s really where the next frontier of this battle is going to be, in those deep water areas,” Stephanie Green said.
In order to give divers and fishermen the upper hand, the FWC launched the Report Florida Lionfish app.
The app included information on the invasive species, safe handling guidelines and a data reporting form so that more harvesters knew exactly where to go.
“They pretty much have been unprecedented in any marine invasion. It’s the largest, the quickest, the most extensive marine invasion we’ve ever seen,” said Nova Southeastern University’s Matthew Johnston.
When hunting the predator was not enough, the FWC banned the import of the fish.
The commission’s executive director hopes that this new restriction will help the native wildlife.
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