So why are Lionfish bad? “Invasive lionfish are out-breeding, out-competing and out-living native fish stocks and other marine species. The consequences impact the food security and economies affecting over a hundred million people.” This is indeed concerning, for scuba divers and everyone!
The Reef Environmental Education Foundation, (REEF), monitors reef populations world-wide . They say...“Indo-pacific Red Lionfish (Pterois volitans) have been documented along the entire US East Coast from Florida through Massachusetts, east to Bermuda and south throughout the Caribbean. The expansion has been rapid and exponential in scope.”
Certainly Key Largo has seen the arrival of the Lionfish, but perhaps not to the extent of these other places! The Florida Keys has been quite active in efforts to control the invasive species. Last year in Key Largo, the derby brought in 461 fish and bestowed awards of up to $1,000. Dive operators report sightings on the reefs and wrecks so that REEF and other entities who are licensed to capture Lionfish can get to the spot and do just that. So far, at least on the main reef areas, numbers of Lionfish are modest at best. Weather or not this situation will change is anybody’s guess. But these efforts do appear to be helping to limit the proliferation of Lionfish in Keys waters, and has been doing so for some years now, which is hopeful.
Scuba divers diving with Sea Dwellers Dive Center report very modest numbers of Lionfish on dives off Key Largo to date. We can even go a week or two without seeing one on a dive now as of 2016. We can only hope this situation is stable, and hope that the on-going efforts here at controlling these fish continue to work. Anyone interested in assisting REEF can contact them, they would love to hear from you!
Sea Dwellers Dive Center of Key Largo