Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

This year’s Emerald Coast Open was a record-breaker with nearly 20,000 lionfish removed from the water in Okaloosa County.

The annual fishing tournament aims to reduce the number of lionfish from the Gulf of Mexico where they pose a threat to native marine life.

Beginning this spring, the University of West Florida College of Business will offer a new course that will delve into the potential to market the highly invasive lionfish to consumers. The hope is that enhancing the lionfish market as food could help curb its threat to native species in the Gulf of Mexico. 

The course, Gulf Coast Business Issues: Lionfish Markets, will be taught by Dr. Bill Huth, a distinguished University professor, and Dr. Felicia Morgan, an associate professor in the College of Business. Students can register for the course beginning Nov. 13.

Michael Spooneybarger/ CREO

Lionfish have long been a prodigious threat to native species in the Gulf of Mexico, taking a big bite out of the region’s vital ecosystem as well as its economy.

However, the invasive species are not just doing harm in the warm waters of the Gulf. They have also moved into the mouths of local river systems, a researcher at the University of West Florida has discovered.

“Those are big nursery grounds for juvenile (native species of fish), a lot that are economically and ecologically important here,” said Amy Brower, a graduate student in the Department of Biology.

Michael Spooneybarger/ CREO

The highly invasive lionfish has been become a dominant predator since it was first documented in the Gulf off Pensacola in 2010.

Armed with venomous spines, a voracious appetite and no natural predator, it’s common to find 50 to 60 lionfish on just one reef, said Andy Ross with the Gulf Coast Lionfish Coalition.
But what native species are these aggressive invaders eating?

“That’s what you guys are here to help us figure out,” University of West Florida professor Jeff Eble recently told students in a marine biology class at Gulf Breeze High School.

Michael Spooneybarger

While it may be beautiful in a home aquarium, the aggressive and fast-reproducing lionfish is wreaking havoc in the ocean ecosystem and endangering reef habitats.

But there might be a way to keep the lionfish in check: by eating it.

Researchers and restaurateurs in Northwest Florida are looking at ways to price and prepare lionfish dishes. In fact, the fish is already on the menu at some Pensacola restaurants.

Bob Barrett / WUWF News

 To a lot of people, Guy Harvey is just a name on tropical shirts and hats.

But this summer in downtown Pensacola, he is the main attraction at the museum of art. Through the month of August the Pensacola Museum of Art is featuring the artwork Dr. Harvey as its Summer Blockbuster exhibit called “Guy Harvey – The Lure of the Ocean.”  Mary Hartshorn, Director of Communications for the Museum says having the exhibit available all summer long was important to make Harvey's art available to the widest audience possible, young and old - local and visitor.

Gulf Coast Lionfish Coalition

Pensacola is hosting the first ever annual Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day Festival and Tournament this weekend. The event is being organized by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, in conjunction with the Gulf Coast Lionfish Coalition and several other local partners. The goal is to raise awareness about the threat lionfish are posing to the Gulf Coast ecosystem and fisheries.