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Proposed bill to ban lionfish sales in Florida

Purchase and raising of lionfish for aquariums would become level two felonies.
  Scott Bennett
Common Lionfish
Imported lionfish can carry pathogens foreign to U.S. fish populations, compounding impact on fisheries
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“All of the details of the bill have not been decided. I’m saying let’s get rid of them. Put an end to lionfish in aquariums.”

—Sen. Greg Evers

Tallahassee lawmakers are joining spear-wielding divers in an attempt to control Florida’s ever-increasing lionfish numbers. If passed, the two proposed bills would halt the public’s ability to purchase lionfish for aquariums and raising them for sale would become a level two felony.

“What the bill is going to do is prohibit the importation and sale of them,” said Sen. Greg Evers, R-Baker, who introduced the Senate version of the bill. “All of the details of the bill have not been decided. I’m saying let’s get rid of them. Put an end to lionfish in aquariums.”

The proposed bill also addresses importation of lionfish hybrids and eggs. Should the law pass, it would enable the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to write and enforce the rules. Sponsoring the bill is Rep. Holley Raschein, R-Key Largo, who says the bills are small measures that could help control the proliferation of lionfish in Florida waters.

Tom Jackson, a research biologist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said the bill would address a larger concern few people are aware of.
Imported lionfish can be carrying pathogens foreign to U.S. fish populations, compounding their impact on fisheries.

The fish were first reported off the Florida coast in 1985. With no known predators to keep them in check, the population has exploded and has since spread up and down the Eastern Seaboard and into the Gulf of Mexico. Scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration believe the fish were released into the Atlantic Ocean when people no longer wanted them as pets.

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