Emerald Coast Open to Battle Lionfish Invasion
Let’s talk lionfish. According to the National Ocean Service, lionfish are native to the Indo-Pacific, but are now established in the Gulf of Mexico, along the U.S. southeast coast, and the Caribbean.
How did the fish get here? While the exact cause is unknown, it’s likely that humans provided a helping hand. 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, they have very few predators. They are carnivores that feed on small crustaceans and fish, including the young of important commercial fish species such as snapper and grouper.
Unfortunately, NOAA researchers have concluded that invasive lionfish populations will continue to grow and cannot be eliminated using conventional methods. Marine invaders are nearly impossible to eradicate once established.¬†Lionfish hunting is done by scuba diving and snorkeling as lionfish are rarely caught on hook & line.
The Emerald Coast Open was created for this purpose. The main tournament is scheduled for May 14-May 16, with pre-tournament fishing already underway. As of March 24, 484 lionfish have been turned in. Registration for the tournament is here.