There's the Burmese Python, slithering through the Everglades, out onto the highways across back yards and and onto patios. We've all heard abut them.
But there's also the Lionfish, an ominous-looking fish that grows up to a foot in length and has 18 venomous fin spikes. The are all over Florida, first seen back in 2000 on the Atlantic coast, now in the Gulf of Mexico and spreading west.
With no known predators and reproducing at phenomenal rates (females release up to 30,000 eggs per spawn and can spawn every four days), biologists and wildlife experts are calling the invasion an ecological disaster in the making unless something is done soon.
I first learned of the problem this past week when I noticed the new Whole Foods in Destin selling Lionfish at the seafood counter. Then I saw notices in the local paper talking about “Lionfish Roundups” that has divers and fishermen competing for prizes to see who could get the most.
Here's a YouTube video taken off Destin by a diver named Dave Magee:
First things first: While Lionfish do have venomous spikes, they are not a major danger to humans. They most hang out by reefs and wrecks. And while being poked with one of those spikes can be very painful, you're not going to die.
But that's about the only good news about these invaders, whose native habitat is the Indian Ocean, Southern and Western Pacific Ocean and the Red Sea.
According to a website aimed at encouraging more Lionfish hunting by divers:
“One thing is for certain, the lionfish invasion is probably the worst man-made ecological disaster ever witnessed and it has yet to completely play itself out… Invasive lionfish are out-breeding, out-competing and out-living native fish stocks and other marine species. The consequences impact the food security and economies affecting over a hundred million people. ”
The good news is you can eat Lionfish, something encouraged by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. They mea tastes a lot like grouper and besides the Whole Foods in Destin, you can also find Lionfish on the menu in many Florida restaurants.
You can't catch them on hook and line. About the only way to harvest them is with a speargun or a hand held net.
I just missed a big Lionfigh Roundup held across the Gulf coast last weekend. In and around Pensacola alone, I8,089 Lionfish were removed in only two days in a tournament that drew 7,000 participants.
Deja Vu: It reminds me of the annual python roundup in south Florida that brings in snake hunters to try and capture and kill as many of the giant snakes as possible every year.
The things you come across Roadtreking…..