A lionfish may sound like a whimsical and harmless, if fierce-looking, creature, perhaps something taken from a children’s book or drawn up by the cartoonists at Disney-Pixar. But the lionfish for Floridians is nothing so friendly. Local marine experts John Clay Dickinson and Rachel Janea McGinnis, owners of Florida Scuba Divers, discuss why this species is so problematic and why they’re partnering with local organizations to remove lionfish from local shores.
Lionfish are brightly-colored and striped, with long, pointy spines that resemble a lion’s mane. The fish is native to the Indo-Pacific, John Clay Dickinson explained, but they can now be found in the U.S. southeast coast, Caribbean, and parts of the Gulf of Mexico. Experts believe humans are to blame for their arrival in these waters, though the exact cause is unknown. John Clay Dickinson said people may have been dumping unwanted lionfish into the water from home aquariums, although doing so is illegal and can incur a hefty fine.
Because they’re not native, lionfish have very few natural predators and have become vastly overpopulated. Rachel Janea McGinnis explained that, like any invasive species with a population of this scale, they’re a serious threat to the native ecosystem, capable of reducing biodiversity, consuming resources previously available for native organisms, and potentially driving native species to extinction. Being carnivorous, they also threaten Florida’s fishing economy as they feed on young commercial fish species such as grouper and snapper.
With the support of the Florida government, local groups, including the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) arrange regular lionfish removal events up and down the Florida coast. Volunteers like John Clay Dickinson and Rachel Janea McGinnis, along with hundreds of fellow divers, anglers, commercial harvesters, and marine enthusiasts, remove the fish from the waters in an effort to conserve the local ecosystem. Florida Scuba Divers has consistently earned recognition year after year for their impressive haul of lionfish during such removal events.
Florida Scuba Divers, in an effort to educate customers about the lionfish problem, keeps a lionfish on the front counter of the shop in an aquarium. Customers can see the species up-close and get a deeper understanding of the delicate balance that is the marine ecosystem. Discussing the problematic invasive species also opens the way for broader discussions about marine conservation and what individuals, families, and communities can do to lend a hand to protect the oceans and seas.
More on Florida Scuba Divers
Florida Scuba Divers is the North Palm Beach’s one-stop-shop for all things SCUBA, with a broad range of products, from dive suits to gear, and offerings of e-learning and certifications for divers of all levels. Within one year in business, John Clay Dickinson and Rachel Janea McGinnis are proud to have served countless customers. The pair have inspired a love of SCUBA in numerous newcomers, in addition to sharing their expertise and enthusiasm with fellow advanced divers. With a dedication to quality, education, and customer service, it’s no wonder the shop has already earned 123 well-earned five-star reviews from customers via Google Business Reviews as of November. This December, the shop will officially celebrate its one-year anniversary.
For more information about Florida Scuba Divers, visit the website: https://www.floridascubadivers.com/ or follow them on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/floridascubadivers/ or Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Dive561.270.5788/