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FWC Approves Lionfish Import Ban, Other Rules To Further Combat Invasive Species

FWC's Flickr account
A speared lionfish in Islamorada

Florida wildlife officials have approved a series of rules aimed at combating the invasive species lionfish, including an importation ban.

At a Wednesday meeting, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission approved new rules to make it illegal to import lionfish into the state from other countries or other states for use in the aquarium trade. FWC spokeswoman Amanda Nalley says the reason for the ban—which takes effect August 1st—is two-fold.

“If I am a person who wants lionfish in my tank at home, I would now have to get that lionfish from Florida waters; thus helping with the removal efforts with the lionfish from Florida waters,” said Nalley. “The second part is if let’s say that lionfish does happen to get accidentally released into the water, then it would be a lionfish that had already come from those waters and would not add to the genetic diversity in the water.”

Other rules include making it easier for scuba divers to catch lionfish.

“The second thing they [FWC] did was allow folks that are using rebreathers, which is a type of diving equipment, to spear and take lionfish,” Nalley added. “Currently, you’re not allowed to spear any fish while using rebreather equipment. The third thing they’re doing is creating a permit system that will allow tournaments and derbies to go into areas where spearing not currently allowed and they will be able to spear and take lionfish from those areas.”

The spiny fish are considered a menace to native wildlife throughout the Atlantic with no natural predators to control the growing population. Last month, the FWC unveiled an app to help track and also further combat the invasive species.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.

Sascha Cordner has more than ten years of public radio experience. It includes working at NPR member station WUFT-FM in Gainesville for several years. She's worked in both radio and TV, serving in various capacities as a reporter, producer and anchor. She's also a graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in telecommunications. She is the recipient of 15 awards from the Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and Edward R. Murrow. Her award-winning stories include her coverage on the infamous “Dozier School for Boys” and a feature titled "Male Breast Cancer: Lost in the Sea of Pink." Currently, Sascha serves as the host and producer of local and state news content for the afternoon news program "All Things Considered" at WFSU. Sascha primarily covers criminal justice and social services issues. When she's not reporting, Sascha likes catching up on her favorite TV shows, singing and reading. Follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter:@SaschaCordner.