Lionfish threatening our economy, native sea life; FWC asking for public's help

An uninvited guest has made it to South Florida's waterways. Now, wildlife conservationists are asking for your help.

Officials say the lionfish threaten native sea life and the economy. The striped beauty eats native fish, can eliminate important organisms and competes for food with native predatory fish like snapper and grouper, which are key commercial fish.

The lionfish is native to the Pacific and Indian River oceans, but in the last couple of years, researchers have seen it creep into areas like the Sebastian Inlet and the Indian River Lagoon. 

Researchers are now asking for help to pinpoint lionfish hotspots, asking the public to report sightings on the U.S. Geographical Survey website .

FWC is also encouraging people to catch them and remove them from waterways.

Get more details from the FWC .

FAST FACTS

• Common name: Lionfish Family Scorpaenidae (Scorpionfishes). This large family contains about 500 species.

• Description: Large head with numerous spines. The dorsal fin has strong, venomous spines. The anal fin also has sharp, venomous spines. The red lionfish has greatly elongated dorsal-fin spines. The membranes of all fins often are spotted. The body is white or cream-colored with red to reddish-brown vertical stripes. A closely related species, the devil firefish is similar to the lionfish and is found primarily in Indian Ocean and Red Sea (as opposed to the lionfish, which is predominantly a Pacific species).

• Size: up to 17 inches

• Native Range: Widely distributed throughout the western Pacific from southern Japan to Micronesia, Australia and the Philippines.

• So you know: Lionfish, though venomous, are not aggressive toward divers and will not charge them. The protein that makes up the nerotoxin (venom) is heat-sensitive, so running the wound under hot water dissipates the pain. Poison and venom are different, so lionfish are safe to eat (even the venom).

Source: U.S. Geological Survey

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