Seashore to Conduct Lionfish Research May 22 at Fort Pickens Area

Posted on May 17, 2021 by Staff reports

The current state record for a lionfish is 18.19 inches, and it was caught in Destin

Gulf Islands National Seashore will conduct lionfish research in the water west of the Fort Pickens fishing pier between sunrise to noon, May 22, 2021.

A total of four survey dives will be conducted between May and October 2021 by the Ocean Strike Team in partnership with the University of Florida Extension Program. The purpose of these surveys is to determine the extent, if any, of the lionfish within Gulf Islands National Seashore on the estuary side.

With few or no predators, and a high reproductive rate, the non-native lionfish is an invasive species of concern. It can quickly invade marine environments and threaten ecosystems by out competing native fishes and consuming a variety of species, significantly reducing juvenile populations of native fish.

Lionfish are not aggressive, but better observed from a distance. Lionfish have venomous spines that are used as a defense mechanism and can sting humans. A lionfish sting can result in pain and swelling of the contacted area. It is not poisonous and is edible.

The rapid expansion of lionfish threatens the resources and values that national parks protect and diminishes the quality of visitor experience. If found, the fish will be removed, and a plan will be developed to manage the invasion.

Any lionfish encountered during these surveys will be removed with pole spears (if large enough) or hand nets/bottles and disposed of properly in accordance with the National Park Service Lionfish Response Plan. The use of spears to fish is strictly prohibited in the park. A special permit was obtained for this study by citizen scientist. The research will also be made available to the public.

To report a lionfish sighting for the purpose of research, contact Rick O’Connor at or Brady Hale at