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Natural Awakenings Northwest Florida

Festival-Tournament Targets Invasive Lionfish

The annual Lionfish Removal & Awareness Day—a family-friendly combination of festival and tournament, with activities for divers and landlubbers alike—will be held May 20 and 21, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at Plaza De Luna in Pensacola.
Lionfish, which have venomous spines that are very painful, are native to the Indo-Pacific, but are now established in the waters along the southeast coast of the United States, in the Caribbean and in parts of the Gulf of Mexico. While the exact cause of their presence here is unknown, it’s likely that humans helped. Experts speculate that people have been dumping unwanted lionfish from home aquariums into the Atlantic Ocean for up to 25 years.
Since lionfish are not native to Atlantic waters, these carnivores have very few predators. They feed on small crustaceans and fish, including the young of important commercial fish species such as snapper and grouper.
How lionfish will affect native fish populations and commercial fishing industries has yet to be determined, What is known is that non-native species can dramatically affect native ecosystems and local fishing economies. Experts are still studying these invaders to better understand their role in, and potential threat to, Atlantic Ocean ecosystems. However, researchers with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have concluded that invasive lionfish populations will continue to grow and cannot be eliminated using conventional methods.
The annual Lionfish Removal & Awareness Day is an opportunity for Floridians to take the task into their own hands. Divers removed 8,089 lionfish from Florida waters during the two-day tournament last year.
Plaza De Luna is located at 900 S. Palafox St., Pensacola. For more information, call 850-529-2475 or visit ReefRangers.com.
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