Florida’s invasive species problem can be daunting, with real implications for the state’s ecology and economy. The breadth of the issue is spurring some lawmakers to ask if state funding makes a difference.
The state is taking some non-traditional steps to slow the spread of invasive species, and officials say they’re making progress. Conservationists recently hired a group of python hunters from South India to wade into the Everglades. Through fishing competitions and private contracts, the state has removed 110,00 invasive lionfish since last year. But Thomas Eason with the state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says that barely scratches the surface.
“They’re a prolific breeder. One individual lionfish can release up to two million eggs per year,” Eason said.
Two million eggs per year. Not every hatchling will survive into adulthood, but stats like that have some lawmakers raising concerns about Florida’s plans for combating non-native species. Thomas Eason says the challenge is daunting.
“I said it before, but we need help from everyone, particularly on lionfish, because it’s just such a broad, large-scale issue with problems that go way beyond our ability to solve by ourselves,” Eason said.
Eason says the eradication programs are important, even if they feel ineffective. But with a problem this large, some lawmakers are asking if the state should even bother. Bartow Republican Representative Ben Albritton chairs the Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Committee, and he’s singling out invasive species programs for special scrutiny. If the state isn't getting an adequate return on investment, Albritton says cutting back the programs could help save money.