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Florida creates smartphone app to curb lionfish invasion

Lionfish

Image courtesy MyFWC Fickr

The state of Florida has developed a new smartphone app to battle against an aggressive aquatic invader: the spiked lionfish.

Native to the Indian and Pacific oceans, the poisonous predator is known for its venomous needle-like dorsal fins, which can cause pain, nausea and breathing difficulties in humans. After making its way to Florida’s Atlantic coast 25 years ago, the lionfish has been reproducing in the state’s waters at an astonishing rate.

The lionfish is also known for its insatiable appetite and has been rapidly devouring many of Florida’s native fish, such as the yellowtail snapper, the Nassau grouper and branded coral shrimp. Because of this, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has deemed the spiked fish a threat to Florida’s diverse marine ecosystem.

“The lionfish has no known natural predators in the Atlantic … and the ability to spawn year-round,” according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. 

The FWC also added: ”They can eliminate species that serve important ecological roles, such as fish that keep algae in check on the reefs.”

To combat this marine invasion, the FWC has developed the Report Florida Lionfish app, which is meant to help state officials collect data and raise awareness about the growing lionfish population.  The app allows users to report sightings of lionfish, so that the fish can be removed from Florida’s waterways.

The first 250 successful users of the Report Florida Lionfish app will receive a free Lionfish Control Team t-shirt, according to the FWC.  Floridians without smartphones can also report lionfish sightings online at MyFWC.com/fishing.