A new rule banning the importation of lionfish is among several new regulations aimed at combating the invasive species set to take effect Friday.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokeswoman Amanda Nalley says the goal behind making it illegal to import lionfish from out of state in the aquarium trade is to help prevent any further introduction of the spiny fish into Florida waters.
“Therefore, we’ll have people in the water going and removing these lionfish—particularly smaller lionfish—that might not be good for use in the food fishery, for example,” said Nalley. “It might not be good to sell for eating later. And, these lionfish will then be sold into the aquarium trade for uses, like people’s pets and other aquariums.”
Other rules make it easier for lionfish spearfishers by removing limitations on gear that allows dives to stay in the water for a longer period of time. And, through a permit system, spearfishing lionfish will now be allowed in areas where spearfishing is not currently not allowed.
“We have certain areas of Florida where you’re not allowed to spear at all. It could be due to safety issues,” added Nalley. “There are certain state parks that do not allow spearing. What we’ve done is we’re creating a permit system that will allow people to go into those areas during organized events, such as tournaments, and spear and remove lionfish and other nonnatives.”
Lionfish, introduced to Florida waters more than 30 years ago, negatively affect native wildlife and have no natural predators to control its growing population.
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