From “smart traps” to underwater drones, Florida’s wildlife agency hopes five organizations will spend thousands of dollars in grant funding to find new ways to further target lionfish. The spiny invasive species eat fish native to Florida, have no natural predators, and can lay thousands of eggs over a short period of time.
The University of Florida, American Marine Research Company as well as the Reef Environmental Education Foundation, R3 Digital Sciences, and Atlantic Lionshare Ltd received $50,000 each in March of this year. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokeswoman Amanda Nalley says the goal is to target lionfish in deep waters. Currently, a lot of the state’s concentrated efforts are in shallow waters.
“Some are looking at technology or underwater drones to try and target them and one, for example, is looking at how can we just take the trap that we have out there in those waters, like lobster traps, and maybe modify them to help target lionfish,” she said.
Another group is using the funding to gather the vocal sounds of lionfish to see if they can be used to lure them into a trap. The research grants will end in June 2019.
It’s unclear how many lionfish are in Florida’s waters, but during a May event, more than 10,000 lionfish were caught across the state in a single weekend. Nalley says public awareness is helping with those efforts.
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