Can lionfish be harvested?
- FWC encourages people to remove lionfish in Florida waters to limit negative impacts to native fish and wildlife. Lionfish can be speared, caught in hand-held nets or caught on hook and line.
What licenses are needed to harvest lionfish?
- A recreational fishing license is not required for recreational fishers targeting lionfish while using a pole spear, a Hawaiian Sling, a handheld net or any spearing device that is specifically designed and marketed exclusively for lionfish.
- A recreational fishing license (unless exempt) is required for all other methods of harvesting lionfish including hook and line.
- There is no recreational or commercial harvest bag limit for lionfish.
- The sale of commercial harvest of lionfish requires a saltwater products license.
- A permit is required to harvest lionfish in the no-take zones of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Permits are issued by the Sanctuary following training given by the Sanctuary and the Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF).
What are the best methods to harvest lionfish?
- Lionfish are best taken by using spears, but they can also be caught in hand-held nets. They are rarely taken on hook and line.
- Care should be taken when spear fishing so that the spears do not impact and damage reefs.
What are the rules for using spears?
- Spears may not be used:
- Within 100 yards of a public swimming beach, any commercial or public fishing pier, or any part of a bridge from which public fishing is allowed.
- Within 100 feet of any part of a jetty that is above the surface of the sea - except for the last 500 yards of a jetty that extends more than 1,500 yards from the shoreline.
- In Monroe County from Long Key north to the Miami-Dade County line.
- In any body of water under the jurisdiction of the Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Recreation and Parks (Florida Park Service). Possession of spearfishing equipment is prohibited in these areas, unless it is unloaded and properly stored.
- Harvest by hand held nets is allowed in all of these situations.
Are lionfish poisonous?
Lionfish have 18 venomous spines that are used defensively against predators. These spines should be avoided during capture and handling because of their ability to cause painful injuries. Thirteen long venomous spines are located along the front of the dorsal fin which is located on the top of the fish. Two short venomous spines are located on the pelvic fins (one on each side), which is located on the bottom of the fish closest to the fishes head. Three additional venomous spines are located along the front edge of the anal fin which is located on the bottom of the fish nearest the tail. The large and featherlike pectoral fins and the tail fin do not contain venomous spines.
Each bony and venomous spine is grooved and covered with a skin-like tissue. During a sting (envenomation), the skin-like covering is torn and retracted as the spine is inserted into the body of a predator. This process allows direct exposure of the wound to the venomous glandular tissue located along the grooved spine. Lionfish fins are not hollow and do not inject venom like a hypodermic needle or the fangs of a snake.
The flesh of the lionfish is not poisonous or venomous, and is considered to be of excellent quality by most who try it.
What should I do if I am stung by a lionfish?
- Lionfish should be handled carefully; they have venom glands on the dorsal, pelvic and anal spines. Lionfish venom causes painful stings.
- NOAA recommends treating a puncture wound by immersing the wound area in hot (not scalding) water for 30-90 minutes and to seek medical attention as soon as possible. The Poison Help Hotline at 1-800-222-1222 is available 24 hours a day, every day.
Is it okay to eat lionfish?
- It is legal to eat lionfish. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and the Florida Department of Health have not issued statements on eating lionfish.
What should I do if I see a lionfish?
- The FWC encourages divers and anglers to remove lionfish they encounter to help control the numbers of these invasive fish to Florida waters. Removing lionfish can help Florida's native marine fish and habitats.
- People that are not comfortable removing lionfish can still report the sighting.
Where should I report lionfish sightings?
Where are lionfish native?
- Lionfish are native to the reefs and rocky crevices of the south Pacific and Indian Oceans, but they are now found in most warm ocean habitats throughout the world.
How long have lionfish been in Florida waters?
- Lionfish were first reported off Florida's Atlantic Coast near Dania Beach in 1985.
- Beginning in 2000, the species was regularly seen off the southeast Atlantic coast of the U.S. They are now commonly found through the Bahamas and the Caribbean (except the Lesser Antilles).
- A recent sighting by a diver in January 2009 in the waters off Key Largo received national media attention. This was the first of many sightings in Florida Keys waters.
- Divers and snorkelers removed 1,518 invasive lionfish from Florida Keys waters during three Lionfish Derby events in 2011. - REEF
- Approximately 56 percent of Florida's recreational lobster fishers surveyed about their activities during the 2012 two-day sport dive season and August 2012 reported observing lionfish in the Florida Keys and Southeast Florida waters. This is up from 40 percent in 2010.
- Recently, lionfish have been collected or observed in the northern Gulf of Mexico.
How far north have lionfish been observed?
- Lionfish have been found as far north as the coast Rhode Island, but they are probably not able to survive the cold winters.
What do lionfish eat?
- Juvenile lionfish eat mostly invertebrates, but shift their diet to fish as adults and eat reef fish. Adult lionfish spread their pectoral fins and use them to "herd" prey. This is a very effective predatory style as it is unfamiliar to native Florida fishes.
- They also compete for food with native predatory fish such as grouper and snapper.
- Lionfish can have negative effects on the overall reef habitat as they can eliminate organisms which serve important ecological roles (e.g. herbivorous fish which keep algae in-check on the reefs).
Do lionfish have any predators in Florida waters?
- Lionfish do not appear to have any predators in Florida waters, although some grouper species have been observed to eat them.
How big do lionfish get?
- Lionfish can grow to 15 inches but are usually not more than a foot long. They reach full adult size at about 2 years.
How often do lionfish reproduce?
- Females release up to 30,000 eggs per spawn and can spawn 3 times/month.
What other organizations are working to remove/control lionfish?
- Other organizations that are working to help control lionfish include REEF (Reef Environmental Education Foundation), NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), and USGS (United States Geological Survey).
- The professional and recreational dive community is also working to help remove and control lionfish.