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Grants target lionfish in deep water

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The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission awarded $250,000 to five organizations this year to research and develop methods to rid lionfish from the region’s deep-water habitat.

Lionfish, as an invasive species, have a devastating impact on native wildlife and habitats. The Florida diving community helps eliminate lionfish in shallow waters with spearfishing, but the fish also can be found at depths of up to 1,000 feet – beyond the 130-foot recreational dive limit.

Research proposals were submitted in fall 2017 and five organizations were selected to each receive $50,000 in funding. Contracts were executed in March 2018 and will be completed by June 2019. The five projects receiving funding are:

  • University of Florida: Will field test and evaluate development and retrieval strategies for harvesting lionfish in deep-water habitat with the use of a non-containment curtain trap. This information will be used to develop a standardized gear and sampling methodology for use in an upcoming Gulf-wide research project.
  • Reef Environmental Education Foundation: Will assess modified lobster trap and curtain trap designs and gather field recordings of lionfish vocalizations to assess whether sound can be used as an attractant or an aggregation tool.
  • American Marine Research Co.: Will work to develop an agile and versatile underwater drone that can be used to control lionfish populations. The project will further evaluate the drone design with a focus on how to best use drone technology and to determine which characteristics of lionfish behavior make lionfish vulnerable to this kind of harvest.
  • R3 Digital Sciences: Will develop and promote fish trap extension kits for existing commercial spiny lobster traps that will convert them from indiscriminate traps into “smart traps” capable of specifically targeting lionfish from depths greater than 130 feet.
  • Atlantic Lionshare Ltd.: Will complete the development of a remotely operated vehicle called the Reef Sweeper that can be used to harvest lionfish from beyond recreational diving depths. The goal is to harvest lionfish in quantities that make it possible to offer it consistently as a common food source to restaurants, stores and wholesalers.

For more information, visit MyFWC.com/Lionfish.

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