Florida Congressmen Look To Stop Invasion of Lionfish In Florida Waters
By Kevin Derby, Sunshine State News // March 19, 2016
(SunshineStateNews) – Three congressmen from the Sunshine State teamed up this week to bring out a measure looking to stop lionfish from taking over Florida waters.
U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., brought out the “Finding Innovative Lionfish Elimination Technologies (FILET) Act of 2016″ on Thursday with U.S. Rep. Curt Clawson, R-Fla., and U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., as co-sponsors. The bill will set up grants for universities to find ways to combat lionfish.
Curbelo made the case for why the bill was needed.
“For decades, coastal communities along the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico have faced a growing ecological and economic threat from lionfish, an invasive species of marine animal,” Curbelo said.
“Lionfish have no natural predators in our region and a single female lionfish can lay up to two million eggs per year. They’ve been known to consume up to 40 sportfish per day which has had devastating effects on the recreational fishing industry in South Florida. Lionfish also consume herbivores, which clean algae from our coral reefs. Without these herbivores, algae continues to grow, resulting in detrimental consequences to the health of our coral reefs.
“To address this major risk to South Florida’s marine fisheries, habitats, and eco-systems, I have introduced the ‘Finding Innovative Lionfish Elimination Technologies Act of 2016,’” Curbelo added.
“This legislation will award competitive grants to universities to completely eliminate this invasive species. I am proud to introduce this bipartisan piece of legislation alongside members of Congress who share my concerns for environmental and ecological conservation and to have the support of the Ocean Conservancy.”
“As a resident of Southwest Florida and as an avid diver who cherishes our natural resources I have first-hand knowledge that the lionfish in our waters are devastating,” Clawson said.
“The recreational collection of lionfish in Florida has contributed significantly to the reduction of our native fish population; a population that sustains our way of life in Florida. It is astounding to me that as a country we are still importing thousands of these dangerous fish from Southeast Asia every year. This needs to stop immediately.”
“These fish are significantly reducing our native fish populations – and we must take action to eliminate these predator,” said Clawson.
Jeff Barger, from the Ocean Conservancy, cheered the bill, insisting “lionfish pose a clear and present threat to healthy marine ecosystems in the Gulf of Mexico.”
Curbelo’s bill was sent to the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee on Thursday.
Back in July, Clawson launched a proposal to ban the import of lionfish. Clawson rounded up some co-sponsors including Curbelo, Florida Republican U.S. Reps. Ander Crenshaw, Mario Diaz-Balart, David Jolly and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Fla.
After being sent to the U.S. House Judiciary Committee in July, the bill was moved to the U.S. House Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations Subcommittee where it currently sits.