The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission recently unveiled the Florida Lionfish app in response to the invasion of the invasive species, one that also established a presence along the Texas coast.
While the first 250 people who successfully complete the Report Florida Lionfish app reporting form will receive a free, interactive and newly redesigned “Lionfish Control Team” T-shirt, the true impact of the technology could prove vital in curbing a species that continues to expand its range, choking off native food supplies and disrupting the food chain.
The Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies on the Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi campus and the Reef Environmental Education Foundation are at the forefront of the lionfish fight, with their researchers finding a number of startling insights into lionfish behavior. They include:
- The lionfish’s continued expansion includes the Gulf of Mexico and Texas. A specimen was even caught at the Packery Channel jetties in Corpus Christi last summer. The fish also has been found at the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, the northern most coral reef bank in North America, about 100 miles south of Galveston.
- Lionfish have a huge appetite and have been found to have eaten almost any other marine life they can snag. Those other critters include shrimp, crabs and more than 100 other species, according to stomach content findings. They’ve even been found to eat other lionfish and have been detrimental to a number of prized game fish including snapper, choking out food sources for other species as well.
- While lionfish have been linked to warm habitats, they have shown that they can survive in a range of conditions and depths, and can reproduce quickly, able to breed roughly a year after being born. Predators in their native habitats in the western Pacific Ocean feed on their eggs and parasites there also help control those populations, but in new areas without these control factors, the lionfish has thrived.
The new Report Lionfish app includes educational information on lionfish and safe handling guidelines, as well as an easy-to-use data-reporting form so divers and anglers can share information about their sighting or harvest with the commission.