FWC to permanently waive license requirement for harvesting lionfish

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

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State wildlife officials plan to waive the commercial and recreational bag limit and the recreational license requirement for divers harvesting lionfish.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission on Wednesday at its meeting near Tallahassee discussed using certain gear to catch lionfish, a nonnative, invasive species that negatively impacts Florida’s native saltwater fish and wildlife.

In August 2012, the FWC put a temporary rule in place that waived the recreational fishing license requirement when targeting lionfish with a hand-held net, pole spear, Hawaiian sling or any other spearing device designed and marketed exclusively for lionfish. This temporary rule change also removed any bag limits when recreationally or commercially harvesting lionfish. Prior to the change, recreational anglers could not catch more than 100 pounds of lionfish without being required to have a commercial license.

The temporary rule change expires Aug. 3.

The commissioners will finalize the license waiver and the bag limit removal at their June meeting in Lakeland.

Currently, the most effective method of removing lionfish from Florida waters is by spearing or using a hand-held net. Removing the license requirements and bag limits will increase lionfish harvest opportunities.

For more on the proposal presented to commissioners, visit MyFWC.com/Commission.

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