Last month, electronic subscribers to the Marine Scene got a news flash that local Sea Grant Extension Advisory Committee members had found a juvenile lionfish in 40 ft of water about 8 miles west of Bradenton. At the time this was the first report of lionfish this far north in the Gulf of Mexico. Now there are reports of lionfish even farther north, one on an artificial reef off Escambia County in the Florida Panhandle, and one off Mobile, Ala. In addition, there is now a reported sighting of lionfish in 1,000 feet of water in the Bahamas. This is believed to be much deeper than they are found in their native habitat.
Lionfish have now become relatively common in the Florida Keys. A recent lionfish “roundup” produced 554 specimens. These fish are effective predators and we don’t know what the impact will be on native reef fishes. Florida Sea Grant will be involved in efforts to develop a plan to help cope with this problem. However, at this point it is difficult to imagine how lionfish populations can be truly controlled.