What’s going on?

Lionfish are native to the Indian and Pacific Oceans and the Red Sea. In the 1980s, a lionfish was spotted off the Atlantic Coast of Florida near Dania Beach. 

Since then, the lionfish population rapidly increased, with the species spreading up the east coast of the U.S., into the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. Biologists suspect that lionfish made their way into the waters of Florida and beyond due to the aquarium trade, mostly from people releasing their pets into the environment. 

Lionfish are often referred to as “perfect invaders” because of the many qualities they possess that have allowed them to establish themselves in areas they are not native to.

  • Lionfish are generalist predators meaning they can prey on a wide variety of species. 
  • Invasive lionfish have no natural predators and possess venomous spines that protect them from potential predation.
  • They can live in a wide range of temperatures, salinity levels, and depths. 

Why it matters.


Because there are no natural factors controlling lionfish populations, they can negatively impact the native species and their ecosystems. They prey on native fish and can greatly reduce, or even eliminate, their populations. 

If these native species have important ecological roles, their disappearance can lead to drastic decline in the overall health of the ecosystem. 


What you can do.

  • Fish for lionfish! Lionfish can be harvested in unlimited numbers at any size during the entire year in the Gulf and Atlantic state and federal waters. 
  • Eat them! Lionfish are edible, and creating a demand for them can increase the effort of removing them from our reefs. 
  • Report your lionfish sighting or harvest to REEF, USGS or NOAA. 
  • Avoid releasing your pets into the wild! 
  • Share information about lionfish to increase awareness about invasive species. 


Information from the FWC, NOAA, and the Florida Museum.