New law aims to crack down on lionfish

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Lionfish are amazing looking, but they are also amazingly invasive.

The non-native fish has infiltrated the waters off the Florida coast, and now a new law aims to decrease the population. It goes into effect August 1.

The law will allow divers to use devices called re-breathers when spearfishing for lionfish. Rebreathers let divers stay in the water longer.

Diver Joe Kistel is with an artificial reef organization called TISIRI. He said recreational divers usually can only go down about 100 feet due to safety reasons.

"Unfortunately lionfish are found much deeper than that," Kistel said. "I'm hopeful these technical divers that like to use rebreathers will now be able to god down and harvest these fish at deeper depths."

The new law also bans the importation of lionfish into the state and may keep foreign fish out of pet shops.

"It's great," Kistel noted, "I think that should've been done a long time ago. I don't see a problem with selling lionfish. But if you are going to do it, let's harvest locally and that's another way to get them out of local waters."

Lastly, the new law will allow participants of approved tournaments and other organized events to spear lionfish or other invasive species in areas where spearfishing is not currently allowed (such as certain state parks or refuges). This will be done through a permitting system.


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