As expected, state eases rules for catching invasive lionfish

June 21, 2014 

Changes in the law that target the invasive lionfish were given final approval by state fishery managers Wednesday.

The new rules, including a spearfishing provision pioneered in the Florida Keys, become effective Aug. 1. Action by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at its meeting in Fort Myers includes:

-- Banning the importation of live lionfish.

-- Allowing divers using rebreather equipment to spear lionfish (rebreathers remain illegal for other spearfishing).

-- Allowing divers in approved tournaments like lionfish derbies to spear lionfish in state waters normally closed to all spearfishing. Each tournament must received FWC permits, and spearfishing remains banned in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary no-take areas.

The state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the FWC are working to develop rules that would ban in-state breeding of lionfish, with an exception for approved research.

Lionfish are a voracious, fast-breeding Pacific species that has no natural predators in the Atlantic Ocean. An increase in lionfish numbers could threaten native fish species.

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