The 2nd Annual Lionfish Removal and Awareness wrapped up this Sunday in Pensacola.
And this year the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says the invasive fish came in bigger and more plentiful than ever before.
Charles Mayling set a new record for largest Lionfish trapped in Florida, with one that was 17.5 inches.
“I have been diving in the Gulf Coast and up until five years ago I have never seen one of these,” said Mayling, Montgomery, AL.
Researchers say Lionfish started popping up around the Gulf Coast in the 1980s. What once used to be an exotic pet for the aquarium, somehow ended up in the ocean.
“Eradication is very unlikely at this point because there are so many out there, and they are way past recreational diving limits where divers can remove Lionfish,” said Meaghan Faletti, Florida Fish and Wildlife Lionfish Outreach Coordinator
The species has few predators. So conservationists are enlisting the help of recreationists, guides, and foodies.
“You can grill em’ you can sautee them, but if you do them at the house it’s real simple to just simply fry em,” said Nathan Holler, The Dog House Deli.
It’s taken time, but word is getting out.
“On a local scale, they are keeping to help the numbers down. A lot of the commercial spear fishing guys are noticing it’s harder and harder to find Lionfish in spots where they dive very regularly,” said Faletti.
But Faletti admits it’s likely there are millions of Lionfish in the deeper waters where researchers say they continue to push out native wildlife.