University of Florida researchers have spent the last year conducting a study on the process and costs of removing the invasive lionfish species from Florida’s waters. The result is less than stellar: control can only be kept in specific, targeted areas and with lots of manpower.
The lionfish eats a lot, and has an appetite for native Florida sport and food organisms like grouper and shrimp. It’s gradual spread into the Gulf of Mexico is worrisome, as there are many seagrass nurseries that could be devastated by a large lionfish population.
The researchers used derbies, essentially free-for-all lionfish fishing periods, for divers and snorkelers. They then studied the derby results and the effect they had on lionfish populations.
What they found was that extensive fishing produced smaller lionfish. While that’s a good sign for grouper, who are vulnerable to the larger lionfish, it could be a threat to the shrimp populations.
This is just one in a string of stories about the effects of invasive species on Florida plants and animals, including those of the Burmese python and kudzoo plant.