Fish hunt yields monster lionfish in Key Largo

by TNP editor 2017-02-19

According to Miami Herald, a lionfish measured over 450 mm was caught during a weekend fishing derby off Key Largo, part of the Florida Keys. While the one-day weekend event for 48 Scuba divers, held annually since 2012, seemed to be a success, the single-day catches of 420 lionfish highlight the seriousness of such a problem – an invasive species that feeds on 50 important species of native fish has firmly established itself in the western Atlantic waters.

So how did lionfish, tropical natives of the Pacific, find their way to Florida and the Atlantic coast?  It was suggested that lionfish were inadvertently released from an aquarium during the hurricane Andrew in 1992. As lionfish are highly reproductive (an adult female can spawn 30,000 eggs every few days), they are now widespread in the Virgin Islands, Bahamas, Bermuda, and along the coastlines of Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. And they don’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.

Unfortunately, the window of eradicating this invasive species may have passed. Catching lionfish through divers may be the only viable method to control their population. We humans are doing what we do best – trying to eat our way out of a problem caused by the unwelcome invaders.

Lionfish fillets are now offered at Florida Whole Foods Market stores at $8.99 per pound. bon appétit.