101 Travel Bits: Everglades National Park - Lionfish
Time for an excerpt from our book, 101 Travel Bits: Everglades National Park. Today's excerpt is from the book's entry on one of the many fish that make the park home - the lionfish.
"There are many invasive species threatening Everglades National Park. The lionfish (Pterois volitans) is one of those species. Native to the Indian and Pacific Oceans, it is thought lionfish were introduced to the Caribbean during the 1980s after being released by aquarium owners who no longer wanted the fish. Lionfish have extended their range and are now found in the waters of Florida Bay.
The lionfish found in Florida Bay are red lionfish. Red lionfish sport showy red banded bodies, with 18 venomous spines protruding from their back, pelvis, and groin areas. The spines resemble a lion’s mane, giving the fish its name. Although the spines are venomous, lionfish stings are usually not fatal to humans. However, they are extremely painful and often cause headaches and vomiting.
Lionfish have few natural predators. Although there are many fish and sharks in Florida Bay that could likely eat lionfish, these potential predators do not view lionfish as a food source and thus ignore them, allowing the lionfish to proliferate.
To counteract the spread of lionfish, one tactic that has begun to prove valuable is the hunting of lionfish as a food source for humans. Although they are venomous, lionfish can be safely eaten and are known to be delicious. Their consumption is encouraged in Florida. You can catch and kill lionfish without a license, and there are regular events teaching people how to catch, clean, and cook the fish. Local grocery stores carry lionfish in their seafood sections. During the summer of 2019, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission held a Lionfish Challenge, where participants were encouraged to catch as many lionfish as possible. The 349 participants in the challenge removed 23,451 lionfish from Florida waters—an average of over 67 fish per person."
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