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Lionfish population in Florida continues to grow

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Lionfish lack a natural predator in Florida, leading to a large population increase that disturbs the state's ecosystem.

The lionfish has become a problem in Florida waters and the population is growing almost exponentially.

Dr. Tom Frazer, interim director of the University of Florida’s School of Natural Resources and Environment, said the problem is due to the lionfish population’s lack of natural predators.

He said the absence of natural predators leads to the lionfish devouring large numbers of different fish populations prosperous for Florida fishermen. This can also lead to heavy ecological losses.

“(The concern) is that they prey on a lot of other organisms that are of value to Floridians, either commercially important fishes or ecologically important fishes or other organisms.”

The Fishing and Wildlife Commission has tried to remove lionfish, but the effort’s success is still unclear.

Matias Zaffke, owner of Gainesville’s Aquatropics, said selling the fish could help eradicate the infestation in the Caribbean and boost Florida’s economy as an added bonus.

Zaffke sells lionfish and warns his customers about the dangers of owning one.

They’re not one of the store’s more popular fish, but he does sell a fair amount each week.

Even though lionfish are a danger to other species indigenous to Florida, they’re mostly harmless to humans.

Their sting is similar to a wasp’s. They cannot kill anyone unless that person happens to be allergic — highly unlikely, according to Zaffke.

About Ethan Magoc

Ethan is a news editor at WUFT News. He's a Pennsylvania native who found a home reporting Florida's stories. Reach him by emailing emagoc@wuft.org or calling 352-294-1525.

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