Florida Revamps Wildlife Rules To Prevent Spread of Invasive Lionfish

Jul 28, 2014 05:07 PM EDT | Jordan Ecarma

Florida officials are changing some management rules as they fight the invasive lionfish population eating native fish in the state's waters.   

Starting on Friday, importing live lionfish into Florida will be prohibited, WFLA reported. To encourage the removal of lionfish from the area, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will additionally allow the creatures to be captured "via spearfishing when diving with a rebreather, a device that recycles air and allows divers to remain in the water for longer periods of time," according to WFLA.

The changes are intended to further the efforts of lionfish hunters and curb the introduction of more of the colorful predator into Florida waters. Local residents can report lionfish sightings to the FWC here.

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

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.

Earlier this year, Florida officials introduced an app called "Report Florida Lionfish" that was intended to help locals report sightings of the fish.

Jamaica has had problems with lionfish as well, launching a national campaign four years ago to reduce the population. Local fishermen have also started catching the fish to be sold at market.

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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