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Meet the Lionfish

In recent years, the lionfish population along the Florida Panhandle has exploded. Their spiny-finned young are practically inedible to other fish, and their voracious appetites see them quickly overwhelming the reefs our local fish rely on. 

Gus Silivos at the lionfish festivalBut here’s the good news: lionfish tastes fabulous — once you get past those spiny fins. Filets are tender, white and flaky, like a baby triggerfish or scamp grouper.

Here’s how you can help:

The 3rd Annual Lionfish Removal & Awareness Festival comes to Pensacola’s Plaza De Luna Park, 900 S. Palafox Street, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on May 20-21. This event features tireless competing scuba divers, celebrity chefs, fillet demonstrations, lionfish tastings, family-friendly games and activities, more than 40 diving and conservation vendors and a few thousand hungry visitors.

More than 8,000 lionfish were collected during the 2016 event. This year, organizers hope for an even greater haul.

That’s why we need your help. So bring your appetite!

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Did you know? (Lionfish Facts)

  • Lionfish are native to the Indo-Pacific region and the Red Sea, not the Western Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico or the Caribbean Sea.

  • Lionfish have no known predators outside of their native habitat. 

  • Intentional and unintentional releases from home aquariums are the most likely cause for the invasion in the Western Atlantic Basin.Lionfish

  • Female lionfish are sexually mature and will release eggs when they reach 7-to-8 inches in length or approximately one year old.

  • A female lionfish can release between 10,000 and 30,000 unfertilized eggs every four days year round, approximately 2 million eggs per year, in warm waters.

  • Lionfish are known to eat just about every marine creature in their range. Some estimates include more than 70 different fish, invertebrates, and mollusks.

  • Lionfish were first reported off Florida’s Atlantic coast near Dania Beach in Broward County in 1985. 

  • Florida holds the world record on the largest lionfish by length: 18.78 inches caught by Capt. Jimmy Nelson off Islamorada in 2015.

  • Lionfish stomachs can expand to 30 times their size. Lionfish can consume prey that is more than half their body length.

  • A single small lionfish may reduce the number of juvenile native fish on any given reef by approximately 79 percent in just five weeks.

  • Controlled studies have shown that a lionfish can go up to three months or longer without eating and only lose 10 percent of their body mass.

  • Lionfish can inhabit depth ranges from 0 to 900 feet, salinity ranges from riverine and brackish water to full-strength seawater, and water temperatures as low as 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • Lionfish have 18 venomous spines that are capable of easily penetrating human skin and delivering a very painful sting. 

 

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