Lionfish in the News April 09, 2015

Thank you Ed Killer and the TC Palm staff for your continued coverage of our ongoing lionfish removal efforts! Here are some excerpts from Ed’s article which appeared Apr 10, 2015:

For Bob Hickerson, inventor of The Frapper, the removal of lionfish from South Florida’s ecosystem is serious business.

But the way he figures it, why not have a little fun while eradicating an unwanted pest?

This summer, four events will target lionfish in an effort to raise awareness and spur removal of what has become Florida’s No. 1 most feared marine pest.

The small, but voracious lionfish is beginning to overrun coral reefs and other marine habitat even in the relatively shallow waters of the Indian River Lagoon.

Recent research has discovered that lionfish will inhabit the rock ledges of the Intracoastal Waterway’s channel, sea walls and even red mangrove roots where many other economically important species of game and food fish make their home as juveniles.

As if that isn’t bad enough, these adaptable predators can be found in depths of 300 feet of water miles from the coast as well.

“We see enough of them to be concerned and worried about their spread,” said Hickerson, an avid diver and confirmed lionfish hater from Vero Beach. “They are showing up in larger numbers with larger fish inside the Fort Pierce Inlet and in the Indian River Lagoon.”

Hickerson said it’s very troubling because lionfish can have a huge affect on the lagoon, and there is very little that can be done to control their population explosion.

Hickerson and partners with the U.S. Geographic Survey and Florida Institute of Technology are developing a lionfish trap that could help in the future, once his group can raise enough money to place a few in the Indian River Lagoon.

Divers he is working with also are working on obtaining permissions to dive spots like the Fort Pierce Inlet and areas around the South Bridge and North Bridge to remove lionfish.

“One thing that has been working well is that demand for lionfish fillets is growing,” Hickerson said. “I know Pelican Seafood, in Fort Pierce; Crab-E-Bill’s, in Sebastian; and New England Seafood, in Jensen Beach, are carrying it in their markets, plus many restaurants are starting to offer it on their menus. That’s a big win right there.”

Lionfish fillets have a mild flavor and flaky consistency making them highly desirable by seafood lovers.

Hickerson said this year’s Treasure Coast Lionfish Safari will be part of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day on May 16.

The FWC is promoting an effort to see how many lionfish can be removed from Florida’s waters in one weekend.

Hickerson said the FWC will be on site at a lionfish derby in the panhandle, but organizers of the Treasure Coast Lionfish Safari, in Fort Pierce, will Skype in to report the total catch from the first day of spearing and fishing. Last year, teams bagged a respectable 581.

The Lionfish Safari also will feature a division for hook-and-line caught lionfish, live music and lionfish tasting.

On May 17, chefs from area restaurants are encouraged to prepare their favorite lionfish creations for a panel of judges.

These events which are open to any divers and anglers who would like to participate.


Florida state and federal regulations

Size limit: None

Bag limit: None

Online: For tips on spearing, catching, cleaning, filleting and biology of lionfish, click here.