Lionfish are native to the Indo-pacific, but have now established themselves along the southeast coast of the U.S., the Caribbean, and in parts of The Gulf of Mexico.
But where did they come from? While the cause is still unknown, its extremely likely that humans have given a helping hand. Experts speculate that these unwanted fish have been being dumped into the oceans from home aquariums since the late 1980's. Lionfish are thriving in the Gulf of Mexico due to the fact that they can reproduce after just one year after they are born; and can breed up to every four days throughout the year. A single female Lionfish a can spawn up to 2 million eggs in just one year. Whats even worse about theses spiny devils is the fact that they have no predators in our waters making it easy for them to wipe out reef fish populations. Lionfish can reduce juvenile fish populations by 90% in as little as 5 weeks after arriving. Lionfish have been found with over 30 fish in their stomach due to the fact that their stomachs can carry over 30 times their stomach volume.
What you can do to help.
Lionfish had no predators, until today. While these Lionfish seem completely heinous they taste great and are fairly easy to catch. Fishing and harvesting Lionfish can be done scuba diving and/or free diving. Pole spears and Spear guns are the most common way to catch a Lionfish, while a zookeeper is a great holding cell for them as you continue to dive. You do not need a saltwater fishing license to collect Lionfish and fortunately there is not a bag limit throughout the day.
What you need to know.
While Lionfish are delicious, their sting isn't. Lionfish have spines packed with venom that can cause intense pain that can last up to 5 days. Though Lionfish are not aggressive fish, they are defensive.
in most cases, 9/10 times the fish will just swim away from you
When you see a Lionfish, do not try to grab it with your hands.
An easy way to catch and/ or harvest Lionfish is to use a speargun or a pole spear and a zookeeper
Spear the Lionfish in the its main torso for a good grab
Dispose of the Lionfish into a container and/or Zookeeper
If you do not want to cut the Lionfish spines on the boat, you can cut the spines on the
bottom of the ocean floor with one thumb inside the Lionfish's mouth.
Always cut the top spines first, then pectoral and after that anal.
Be careful of the amputated spines, they can still deliver venom to up to 5 days after being cut.
After the spines are cut off from the Lionfish its completely harmless.