Month-Long Hunt For Invasive Lionfish Set To Begin

Mar 27, 2014

A local group is taking to the water to help kill an invasive species that has infiltrated the waters of the First Coast.

With no natural predators, pterois, commonly known as lionfish, have been spreading in the Atlantic Ocean including off Northeast Florida. The invasive newcomers are threatening native species.

A red lionfish.
Credit OpenCage Systems

A month-long tournament kicks off Thursday to hunt down lionfish with cash prizes for the most caught.

A event is scheduled Thursday evening at 6 p.m. at the Mudville Grill in Jacksonville to go over the rules and signal the official start of the Northeast Florida Lionfish Blast.     

"Unfortunately the fish don't really eat like snapper and grouper, you're not going to really be able to catch them on hook and line," said local diver and co-organizer Brandon Traub.

"You might be able to get them every once in a while but it's going to be far and few between. So really the best way to get rid of these fish is to get in the water  and scuba dive and spear fish them with a pole spear."

Traub also said lionfish are very tasty to eat as they produce a lighter and cleaner meat than most fish.

Lionfish are believed to have been introduced to the Atlantic Ocean through the unintended released of cargo ballast water due to storms or illegal releases through the aquarium trade.  

You can follow Kevin Meerschaert on Twitter @KMeerschaertJax.