Two lionfish discovered in Gulf of Mexico off Southwest Florida

For the first time, two juvenile lionfish were caught in trawls in the Gulf of Mexico north of the Dry Tortugas and west of Cape Romano.

Photo by Ed Matheson/Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

For the first time, two juvenile lionfish were caught in trawls in the Gulf of Mexico north of the Dry Tortugas and west of Cape Romano.

They're venomous, they're nonnative and they've been found in the Gulf of Mexico off Southwest Florida.

Two juvenile lionfish were caught by Florida fisheries scientists last week in two separate net tows 99 and 160 miles off the coast, north of the Dry Tortugas and west of Cape Romano, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute reported this afternoon.

The discovery is the first time lionfish have been found in Gulf waters north of the Tortugas and the Yucatan Peninsula.

Scientists say the lionfish are either the product of a spawning population on the West Florida continental shelf or they were carried there by ocean currents from other potential spawning areas.

Either way, it could mean that lionfish are expanding their range in the eastern Gulf, scientists say.

The lionfish, measuring about 2.5 inches long, were found at 183 feet and 240 feet below the surface.

Before last week's find, lionfish had been found in the Tampa Bay area, Atlantic Ocean coastal waters and in the Florida Keys and Dry Tortugas.

Lionfish are native to the reefs and rocky crevices of the Indo-Pacific, according to the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute.

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