FWC discovers nonnative lionfish in Gulf of Mexico
Friday, July 23, 2010
Media contact: Carli Segelson, 727-896-8626, ext. 2076
Researchers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife
Conservation Commission's (FWC) Fish and Wildlife Research
Institute collected two juvenile red lionfish (Pterois
volitans) last week from the Gulf of Mexico. With the
exception of a probable aquarium release from the Tampa Bay area,
the discovery of these lionfish marks the first time this nonnative
species has been documented in Gulf waters north of the Tortugas
and the Yucatan Peninsula.
FWC researchers found the lionfish in the catch
from two separate net tows taken at distances of 99 and 160 miles
off the southwest coast of Florida, north of the Dry Tortugas and
west of Cape Romano. The specimens were taken from depths of 183
and 240 feet as part of a trawl survey funded by the Southeast Area
Monitoring and Assessment Program, a cooperative state and federal
FWC scientists believe the two juvenile lionfish,
measuring approximately 2.5 inches in length, are either evidence
of a spawning population on the Gulf of Mexico's West Florida Shelf
or they were transported to the area by ocean currents from other
potential spawning areas, such as the waters off the Yucatan
Peninsula. Either of these scenarios could indicate an expansion of
the range of this species in the eastern Gulf of Mexico.
Lionfish are nonnative, venomous fish that have
been sighted in Atlantic coastal waters of the United States since
the mid-1990s and have been reported more recently in the waters of
the Florida Keys and Dry Tortugas. Lionfish, specifically the red
lionfish and the devil firefish, appear to have established
populations in the western North Atlantic Ocean. These species are
native to the reefs and rocky crevices of the Indo-Pacific, but
were likely introduced into South Florida waters in 1992.
To report sightings of lionfish, call the
nationwide reporting number (877-STOPANS) sponsored by the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) or
fill out an online report on the USGS website at http://nas.er.usgs.gov/sightingreport.asp.
For more information about lionfish, visit the USGS website. Go to MyFWC.com/Nonnatives
to learn more about nonnative species in Florida.