New App To Help Florida Fight Invasive Lionfish

May 31, 2014 09:32 AM EDT | Jordan Ecarma

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Florida residents are employing a new tactic to combat the invasive lionfish: a smartphone app to help officials collect data on the venomous species.

Native to the Indian and Pacific oceans, the tropical fish reproduces quickly and has been devouring native Florida fish like the yellowtail snapper and Nassau grouper, Reuters reported.

The striped fish of red, brown and cream was first detected off the coast of Florida 25 years ago and has also spread to Cape Hatteras, N.C., and to the Bahamas. The venomous creature has spread rapidly through the area due to its lack of predators in the Atlantic as well as its ability to reproduce year-round, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Named "Report Florida Lionfish," the app is intended to encourage residents to report sightings of the invasive lionfish, raising local awareness that the species poses a threat, Amanda Nalley of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission told the AP.

The commission is doing a promotional push for the app, offering a free a free Lionfish Control Team T-shirt with an interactive logo to the first 250 active users.

People can additionally report sightings of the invasive species online at MyFWC.com/fishing.

Florida may want to look to other countries for more lionfish-fighting methods. Jamaica has been campaigning to reduce the lionfish population in its waters as well, a cause that has been boosted as locals develop an appetite for the striped fish.

"After learning how to handle them, the fishermen have definitely been going after them harder, especially spear fishermen. I believe persons here have caught on to the whole idea of consuming them," Jamaican marine ecologist Dayne Buddo told The Associated Press by phone last month.

According to Jamaica's National Environment and Planning Agency, sightings of lionfish in shallow coastal waters have fallen as much as 66 percent.

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