Divers find invasive lionfish in Gulf off Florida Panhandle

Lionfish are a venomous invasive species establishing themselves in Florida coastal waters. Most likely they were brought here by importers and by various circumstances are now loose in a new habitat. Shutterstock

Lionfish are a venomous invasive species establishing themselves in Florida coastal waters. Most likely they were brought here by importers and by various circumstances are now loose in a new habitat. Shutterstock

DESTIN — Divers are finding nonnative lionfish in Gulf waters off Florida's Panhandle.

The fish belong in the Pacific and Indian oceans but are popular among aquarium owners and fish breeders. They began appearing in northwest Florida about a year ago.

Biologists say the lionfishes' flowing fins include stinging spines and that swimmers should beware. Experts told the Northwest Florida Daily news that the concern is that the lionfish will change the local ecosystem and compete with native fish species.

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