A new lionfish removal incentive program in Florida that’s scheduled to start in May 2018 has support from Boat Owners Association of The United States with a $5,000 donation made by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
The goal of the 2018 tagged-lionfish removal incentive program will be to offer cash and other prizes to anglers who harvest non-native lionfish that have been tagged by FWC staff.
The removal program coincides with the state’s annual summer-long Lionfish Challenge, which will run May 19 through Sept. 3, 2018.
This event will rewards recreational and commercial lionfish harvesters for their efforts. Rarely caught on hook-and-line, the most common methods of removal are spearing and using a hand-held net.
In 2016, more than 110,000 lionfish were removed from Florida waters. Native to the Indo-Pacific and believed to have entered Florida waters from an aquarium release, lionfish are now established along the southeast coast of the U.S., Caribbean, and across the Gulf of Mexico. Due to its venomous spines, the invasive species has few predators and can negatively impact native fish and reef habitats.
In 2018, approximately six to eight lionfish will be tagged by FWC at each of the 50 randomly selected public artificial reef sites throughout the Atlantic and Gulf between the depths of 80 and 120 feet.
Reef locations can be found at ReefRangers.com, and additional information on the removal program will be announced by FWC in early next year.
Support for the tagged-lionfish removal incentive program also came from the American Sportfishing Association, Yamaha, National Marine Manufacturers Association, Coastal Conservation Association of Florida, and the Marine Industries Association of Palm Beach County.