Building On Similar Lionfish Removal Efforts, FWC Unveils New Panhandle Pilot Program

Apr 18, 2016
Originally published on April 15, 2016 5:08 pm

Florida wildlife officials have unveiled a pilot program in the Florida Panhandle as part of their latest lionfish removal efforts.

This year’s statewide goal to remove the invasive species is 25,000, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is hoping at least half that number will come from the Panhandle Pilot Program.

“And, it would include seven counties here in Florida, Escambia through Franklin counties,” said Melissa Recks, during a recent FWC meeting. “It would begin in May of this year and run through May 2017. For that program, divers would need to harvest at least 100 lionfish from those seven counties in the Panhandle.”

Recks is the Section Leader for FWC’s Division of Marine Fisheries Management. She says if divers do harvest 100 lionfish, they’re eligible for a tag that would allow them to also harvest red grouper or cobia over the state’s bag limit. Any person who harvests 500 or more lionfish will also be able to name an artificial reef. On top of Escambia and Franklin counties, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, Bay, and Gulf are part of the pilot.

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