For your weekend reading enjoyment, CORAL Magazine has made one of my articles from the July/August 2014 print issue on Florida’s new lionfish import ban available for free online.
After many months of fact-finding and testimony, the seven Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) commissioners in mid-June voted unanimously to approve controversial final state rules that make importing lionfish from the genus Pterois illegal effective August 1st. This is serious business, as Florida spends in excess of half a billion dollars annually combatting invasive species. In addition the commissioners approved widely-supported lionfish rules that allow persons diving by means of a rebreather to harvest and possess lionfish and also allow the Executive Director to issue permits to events in order to allow the use of spearfishing gear to remove lionfish or other nonnative invasive species in areas where spearfishing is otherwise prohibited.
The actions were taken against the backdrop of the most destructive marine fish invasion ever documented in the western Atlantic and perpetrated by two lionfish from the genus Pterois: P. volitans and P. miles.
Most stakeholders agree banning the two established and invasive species of lionfish is a good idea. Unlike the other species in the genus, the best available science suggests that an import ban on these two species may in fact assist with mitigating the lionfish invasion. Recent studies have shown that a more robust lionfish fishery targeting the animals for both food and aquarium use can help deplete invasive populations. Because the food fishery and the aquarium fishery often target different sized lionfishes, encouraging both fisheries is critical. Banning P. volitans and P. miles from import will, FWC contends, create more demand for the harvest of invasive lionfishes and will in turn benefit native wildlife and ecosystems.
Jeff Turner, president of the Florida Marine Life Association (FMLA), which represents many of the state’s professional fish collectors, was one of several individuals who provided stakeholder comment as the FWC lionfish rules were being drafted. FMLA represents many of the State’s professional fish collectors. Like everyone who provided public comment on the lionfish rules at the draft rule hearing in April, Turner suggested the State should only ban the two currently established and invasive species of the genus from import.
“Lumping all of the lionfish species together was much easier for the State to enforce than trying to figure out which ones are which upon importation. I personally objected to this species-specific scenario, also knowing that it was—and is—is highly unlikely that these other species pose an issue.”
By deciding to include all species in the genus in the import ban, FWC has banned the importation of several popular aquarium lionfishes that have never been reported in Florida waters. Both the Mombasa Lionfish (P. mombasae) and the Radiata Lionfish (P. radiata) are small, attractive lionfishes from the banned genus that will no longer be… [Continue Reading the Article in CORAL Magazine]
For More on the Lionfish Invasion and attempts to manage it, check out the lionfish content at The Good Catch Blog.