The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission gave final approval Wednesday to a ban on imports of lionfish to Florida.
Commissioners also voted to make it easier for divers to catch lionfish in the wild.
The lionfish is considered a major threat to Florida’s native aquatic species because it has no natural predators to control its population.
Commission spokesperson Amanda Nalley says the new regulations will do two things: restricting aquarium owners to lionfish caught off Florida’s coast will help with removal efforts.
“And then the second part of that is, let’s say, for some reason, that lionfish does get re-released into Florida waters, there’s not going to be any added genetic diversity there. It’s going to be a fish that was already previously removed from Florida waters that ends up back in the water,” Nalley said.
A first time violation is classified as first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. The lionfish ban takes effect August 1.
You can follow Cyd Hoskinson @cydwjctnews.