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Florida announces a Lionfish Summit

Tuesday, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced that they are calling for abstracts for the upcoming 2018 Lionfish Summit. The summit will be held in Cocoa Beach, FL on October 2 thru 4 and will feature presentations, posters, and discussions with marine resource management staff, dive professionals, researchers, and ocean conservationists about current efforts addressing the lionfish invasion.

The lionfish is an invasive species that has gotten firmly established in the Florida reefs and is expanding its range across much of the gulf coast, including Alabama, and the Caribbean.  Alabama is currently holding the First Annual Lionfish Challenge.  Prizes are being offered to the fishermen who harvest the most lionfish.

“The Lionfish Summit will have three main themes: Policy & Regulations, Control Efforts/Research & Monitoring, and Education & Outreach,” Florida Fish and Wildlife said in a statement. “We hope these themes will capture the breadth of efforts on the invasive lionfish issue and will encourage productive discussion on the future of lionfish control efforts.”

The lionfish is slow moving and tends to congregate around reefs. Alabama has few natural reefs; but has devoted considerable effort in establishing artificial reefs to increase fishing opportunities for fish like snapper. According to a 2017 survey of Alabama fisheries, researchers found some of the highest concentrations of lionfish in the world around some of those man-made structures. Lionfish are voracious eaters that feed on small fish, including young grouper and snapper, as well as crustaceans. Lionfish eat constantly but research has shown that they can live without eating for as long as 12 weeks. The lionfish is edible and reportedly tasty; but the spines are venomous so handle the fish with care.

“If you are interested in participating in this year’s Lionfish Summit, as either a 15 minute oral presentation or poster display, we would like to invite you to submit an abstract (up to 1 page) on your work.” FWC announced. “In your response, please let us know if you are interested in giving an oral presentation or poster and which theme your presentation will address. The deadline for abstract submissions is August 3. Space is competitive and submission of an abstract does not guarantee acceptance to present at the summit. Our selection committee will notify the accepted presenters on August 13.”

The lionfish is native to the Indo-Pacific where it is preyed on by sharks and grouper. It has no natural predators in the Atlantic, including the Gulf of Mexico.

The lionfish is popular in aquariums and it is believed that six escaped from their tank during Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Intentional releases of aquarium pets may have contributed to the rise of the lionfish population in the Atlantic.

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To learn more about Alabama’s First Annual Lionfish Challenge:

State is holding first ever Alabama Lionfish challenge

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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