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July 2015    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 30, No. 7   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Lionfish Petition Update: We Still Donít Like It

from the July, 2015 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

In last month's article "Don't Sign This Lionfish Petition," we recommended not signing a petition, sponsored by the Emerald Coast Reef Association (ECRA), to let Florida divers kill 100 lionfish each, in exchange for 10 fish tags good for in- or out-of-season spearfishing of two each of triggerfish, greater amberjack, red snapper, red grouper and gag grouper, with no limit to the number of tags that can be earned. Lad Akins of the nonprofit Reef Environmental Education Foundation was against the petition for putting more pressure on already impacted fish species, and we agreed.

ECRA president Candy Hansard wrote to say we were in error with our numbers: the ECRA's goal was to remove 25,000 lionfish in two years or less from the Florida Panhandle, not the 5,000 we wrote.

While the online petition stated that it doesn't limit the number of fish tags divers could earn, Hansard says the pilot would only provide a total of 2,500 tags. "For removing 25,000 lionfish by sacrificing 2,500 of our native fish, we will be saving approximately 1.6 million of our native fish each month those 25,000 lionfish are out of our water. We will also be preventing the release of up to 25 billion lionfish eggs that will not be reproducing the following year."

In reply to Akins's suggestion that lionfish roundup derbies are a better way to eradicate the fish, Hansard writes, "Derbies require a lot of work and money, so they are only held sporadically. Divers wait months without harvesting lionfish from reefs to improve their chances of winning the next derby. This leaves breeding lionfish in the water for months, a year, or longer until the next derby is organized and funded."

Still, the ECRA isn't swaying many divers to its side. Undercurrent reader Carol Cox (Mexico Beach, FL) wrote us to say "Hansard campaigned for the Mexico Beach Artificial Reef Association (MBARA), and other artificial reef organizations in Florida, to support this petition at our last artificial reef seminar. My husband and I are both board members for MBARA and we did not see the logic in it."

Peter Hughes, who runs the liveaboard operation DivEncounters out of Miami Beach, says the goal seems more to spear game fish than to kill lionfish. "This is just another back-door attempt to circumvent the essential protections in place as we try to rebuild (or at least protect and maintain) our grouper and snapper populations -- especially grouper, which are becoming scarily scarce, in my unscientific opinion."

Ultimately, the people Hansard and ECRA need to convince are Florida state regulators, and they don't look likely to be won over. But for you to see both sides of the story, read the petition for yourself - it's at www.gopetition.com/petitions/support-lionfish-population-control-and-the-search-for-eradication-methods.html

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