A new smart phone application has been developed to help the state of Florida eradicate the spiked lionfish, a highly invasive species. The spiked lionfish has been reaping havoc on Florida’s Waterways for the past 25 years. Originating from the Pacific and Indian oceans, the spiked lionfish not only has a voracious appetite, but is able to spawn any time of the year. Keeping their numbers down has been a huge challenge.
The venomous predator preys on at least 70 different native invertebrates and fish. They seem to be particularly fond of Nassau grouper, banded coral shrimp and yellowtail snapper. The spiked lionfish has also had a negative impact on the reef systems.
Florida is host to approximately 500 invasive species. One of the more frightening of these species is the tegu lizard of Argentina. About 450 of them have found the Homestead area to be to their liking. Another more innocuous but very prolific species is the yellow-banded millipede. Found in nearly every home in the Florida Keys, this harmless Caribbean insect was first spotted in 2001. In January 2013, there was a state sponsored hunt for yet another culprit, the Burmese python, which has taken over much of the Florida Everglades. Not only did state wildlife officials manage to remove some of the humongous snakes, but needed data was collected and and increased awareness of their presence was raised.
With no Atlantic predators to speak of, the spiked lionfish has proven itself to be the most unwelcome of all the invasive species in the state. Because of the striking appearance of the spiked lionfish, with its red, cream and brown stripes, it is popular for aquariums. That is until it eats up all the other fish in the tank which seems to be what prompts owners to take them out and dump them in the nearest canal, inlet or ocean.
The new app, called Report Florida Lionfish, will be used for assisting the state in gathering data, raising awareness and encouraging Floridians and tourists to report any sightings of the fish. Officials recommend not interacting with the fish because although it is not fatal, their sting can be very painful. Removing the spiked lionfish from the many waterways in an effort to cull their numbers is imperative. Especially, since they are not only in Florida waters now. The spiked lionfish has managed to spread north to Cape Hatteras and south to the Bahamas.
The app is just one of many creative ways the state has been working to eradicate the spiked lionfish. Last year in the Keys, a derby was organized, lifting restrictions for spearfishing. In a cooperative effort between John Pennecamp Coral Reef State Park, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, teams of spearfishers were encouraged, for one day, to nab as many lionfish as possible.
As a promotional effort for the app, the first 250 users will receive a Lionfish Control Team tee-shirt. The interactive logo on the shirt, using the Aurasma app, will display a video of the dreaded lionfish. People who do not have smart phones can make their reports at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website. Eradicating an invasive species like the lionfish is often an uphill battle. It is hoped that this app will make the task less daunting for the people of Florida.
By Stacy Lamy