Lawmakers attempt to control lionfish

Lawmakers have introduced bills in the Florida House and Senate banning the importation and aquaculture of invasive lionfish. The identical bills, filed by Rep. Holly Raschein, R-Key Largo, and Sen. Greg Evers, R-Pensacola, may might be one of the first legislative efforts in the United States to control the spread of the venomous exotics from the Indo-Pacific.

Lionfish, believed to be abandoned aquarium pets first spotted in South Florida waters in the 1980s, are responsible for decimating native fish populations throughout the Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. They have been found from estuaries a few inches deep to 1,000-foot-deep ocean canyons.

House Bill 1069 and Senate Bill 1336 would prohibit the importation and sale of illegally-imported lionfish and prevent fish farmers from growing them. However, Florida fishers, trappers and divers could still sell the lionfish they catch or spear locally. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Department of Agriculture would be authorized to adopt rules enforcing those provisions.

The bills were developed in consultation with the nonprofit Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) and the FWC following last October’s statewide Lionfish Summit in Cocoa Beach.

“Let’s encourage removal of fish from the invaded range and stop bringing in new fish from the Indo-Pacific,” said Lad Akins, director of special projects at REEF.

The bills now will make their way through committees in both chambers. If adopted, the law would take effect Aug. 1.

Billfish competition

Liquid, skippered by captain Art Sapp, leap-frogged from third to the top spot with a total of 11 sailfish releases in Jimmy Johnson’s National Billfish Championship that concluded Saturday in Key Largo.

Liquid’s winnings exceeded $205,000, according to tournament director Jamie Bunn.

BAR South, skippered by Jim Mulcahy, was runner-up team with nine releases, including four for top angler Mark Galadza. Joe Neber’s Contender One scored eight sails to take third place in the fleet of 47 boats. Anglers released 149 sailfish in two days.

Sue Cocking

Read more Outdoors stories from the Miami Herald

  • Fishing report

    Captain Glyn Austin of Going Coastal Fishing Charters out of Sebastian reported that catch-and-release fishing for snook with live baits and artificial lures day and night has been outstanding in and around the Sebastian Inlet all the way north to the Patrick Air Force Base. Redfish and a few permits are biting in the Sebastian Inlet and are being caught on small blue crabs. Along the beaches, tarpon, bonito, jacks and sharks can be targeted all the way to Port Canaveral. These fish have been feeding along the big baitfish schools. Offshore reef fishing has been good for cobias and mangrove snappers up to 12 pounds.

A large Goliath grouper nestled into the Bonaire shipwreck off Jupiter.


    Outdoors feature: Goliath groupers make recovery but harvest remains on hold

    Dropping into the roiled, murky waters 60 feet deep off Jupiter Inlet on Monday, I heard the annual spawning aggregation of Goliath groupers before I actually saw it. Below me, I could barely make out the wreck of the MG 111 or the mottled, gentle giants that show up each year between late July and mid-October to keep their species going. But the Goliaths already had seen our group of divers and weren’t too happy about our visit. They emitted loud, bass booming noises that sound a little like gun reports – probably to alert each other and to warn us not to get too cozy.

 <span class="cutline_leadin">Under the sea:</span> The ferro cement sailboat Usikusiku sits 75 feet deep on the ocean floor after being deployed Tuesday as an artificial reef off Hollywood. It already is attracting marine life.


    Sailboat finds new life in final resting place

    The 43-foot ferro cement sailboat doesn’t look very impressive sitting on the ocean floor about 75 feet deep off Hollywood. It’s plain and bare with no design flourishes.

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