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Have At 'Em: Wildlife Officials Work To Open The Doors To Unlimited Hunting Of Lionfish In Florida

Apr 18, 2013 02:16 PM EDT
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In an act to defend local wildlife, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission expressed on Wednesday their hope to change laws that will promote the fishing of lionfish in the area.

Native to the South Pacific and Indian Oceans, the fish compete with important juvenile reef species like grouper and snapper for both food and habitat.

What's more, the fish has no natural enemy and proliferate freely in their new homes off the shore of New York and Bermuda where they were first spotted in 1985.

The agency implemented a temporary rule last August to waive the requirement of a recreational fishing license when hunting the fish with pole spears, handheld nets, Hawaiian slings and other devices designed to catch it. 

The same law removed any bag limits, whereas previously anglers were prohibited to bag any more than 100 pounds without a commercial license. 

Charges will not be finalized, however, until June when the commissioners meet again in Lakeland, Fla.

Spearing and the use of hand-held nets are among the most effective methods of catching the lionfish, which, despite having venomous spikes, are considered a delicacy.

Lionfish are believed to be nocturnal hunters, though they have been found with full stomachs during the day in the Atlantic.

In all, they consume over 50 species of fish by using their fan-like pectoral fins to slowly pursue and corner their prey.

How they made the jump across the world's oceans is not clear, though some, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, speculate they were transferred and released on purpose due to their heavy demand in the aquarium trade.

Lionfish are not listed as threatened or endangered in their native region though they do face a constantly decreasing supply of food as growing pollution continues to negatively affect their habitat.

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