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Florida’s Lionfish Ban Goes into Effect, But Will It Make a Difference?

Florida’s ban on importing lionfish ban went into effect on Friday.

Under the new lionfish ban, persons who are caught importing the invasive fish face a fine of up to $1,000 and a year in prison.

State wildlife officials have also eased lionfish restrictions for anglers and spear fishermen.

Florida wildlife officials hope the lionfish ban will help curtail the spread of the invasive species that are wreaking havoc on Florida’s marine ecosystems.  But they don’t have any allusions that it will completely solve the problem.

“They’re here to stay,” Roldan Muñoz, a researcher with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told Reuters. “If we can prevent more of them from getting dumped into the water…as well as making it easier for people to harvest them it’s a good start.”

Lionfish are native to southeast Asia. They have no natural predators, and prey on a wide range of fish.

There are two theories of how lionfish came to Florida. They were either carried over on ships, or released into Florida’s coastal waters by aquarium owners who owned lionfish as pets.

The first lionfish sighting in the state was in 1985 off the coast of south Florida. By the mid-1990’s they had spread up the coast of eastern Florida. Today, their habitat range in the eastern Atlantic extends from Venezuela up to North Carolina.

Click here to watch a video about the spread of lionfish along American coastal waters.

Lionfish are venomous and have no natural predators in Florida’s coastal waters. When they are juveniles, they feed on invertebrates. As they mature, they switch to a diverse diet that includes more than 40 species of fish.

 What do you think about Florida’s lionfish ban? 

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Florida’s Lionfish Ban Goes into Effect, But Will It Make a Difference?