Gulf Coast Lionfish Coalition Set To Address Growing Lionfish Epidemic at Local Meeting

lionfish meeting pic
Gulf Coast Lionfish Coalition Set To Address Growing Lionfish Epidemic at Local Meeting
By: Kelly Woodard

Though they may be beautiful in your saltwater fish tanks, Lionfish have become a nuisance here on the Gulf Coast. Join the Gulf Coast Lionfish Coalition, along with Rick O'Connor of Florida Sea Grant, for the first Pensacola Lionfish Workshop Meeting this Wednesday, April 9
th at 6 pm at the Perdido Key Visitors Information Center located at 15500 Perdido Key Dr.
This meeting will give an informational presentation that will help you learn more about the invasive species. Lionfish are not native to the Gulf of Mexico. They originate from the Indo-Pacific, and it is believed that they spread into the Gulf after they were released by aquarium owners in South Florida. Lionfish began showing up in our area in 2010, and had fully infested most public reefs by late 2012.
The venomous, fast reproducing fish are aggressive eaters and will consume anything and everything, gorging so much they are actually getting liver disease. With no known predators, except human beings, they can wipe out 90% of a reef and endangering some of our most important local species.
Ecologist James Morris with the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science said that while this may not be the worst epidemic the Gulf of Mexico has faced, it does have the makings of a disaster. He said the lionfish has brought a "big change in biodiversity," and it is what he called "the most abundant top-level predator in the area”.
The meeting, which will be open to all citizens, will aim to educate the public by increasing awareness of the threats posed by the invasive lionfish to Gulf Coast fisheries and marine ecosystems along with ways to promote and facilitate the removal of lionfish by volunteer divers and encourage the consumption of lionfish by the public via restaurants and seafood markets.
The Gulf Coast Lionfish Coalition is comprised of concerned scientists, scuba divers, fishermen, gourmet cooks, and other stakeholders who have a passion for protecting and enjoying our natural resources. They believe with the help of local residents through participation in the 2014 Gulf Coast Lionfish Roundup, to be held May 1
st through May 4th, attending local meetings to educate our friends and neighbors, reporting Lionfish sightings, and joining in on the Lionfish hunt, we can control and protect our important aquatic species and their ecosystem.
The meeting will be held from 6 to 8:30 pm on April 9
th and will begin with a short presentation of facts regarding the Lionfish. Audience members will then be allowed to ask any questions they may have about the issue or the Gulf Coast Lionfish Coalition.
The meeting will conclude with details regarding the upcoming 2014 Gulf Coast Lionfish Roundup. Cash Prizes will be awarded for the highest number of fish checked in (first through fifth place), biggest fish (first second and third place), and the smallest lionfish measured. There will also have a Team Participation trophy. In addition, there will be lionfish education booths and delicious lionfish dishes prepared by Chef Chris at the festival.
Those wishing to participate in the event will be allowed to register at the meeting.
For more information about the Pensacola Lionfish Workshop Meeting or regarding the lionfish problem here on the Gulf Coast, please visit
www.gulfcoastlionfish.com or contact Andy Ross at 850-529-2475.