Why are lionfish a problem?

Lionfish (Pterois volitans and P. miles) are an invasive marine reef fish species that have the potential to negatively impact native wildlife and habitat.

Native to the Indo-Pacific, lionfish were first reported off the coast of Florida in the mid-1980s. Since their initial introduction, lionfish populations have boomed. Lionfish are now well established throughout the western Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean, and the Gulf of Mexico.

Lionfish reproduce quickly, compete with native species for food and habitat, and have no natural predators in their invaded range. Because of these, and a host of other invasive characteristics, lionfish are characterized as the worst marine invader to date!

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) encourages divers, anglers, and commercial harvesters to remove lionfish in Florida waters to limit negative impacts to native marine life and ecosystems.

Learn more about invasive lionfish.

Recorded lionfish sightings over time

Florida’s invasive lionfish initiatives


The invasive Indo-Pacific lionfish were first reported offshore Broward County, Florida in 1985 and are now well established in the western Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico. The FWC was one of the lead organizations to act by initiating procedures to evaluate the extent of the invasion, developing outreach and awareness messaging, removing potential regulatory barriers to removal, supporting control efforts, and implementing removal incentive programs. The FWC lionfish program was created within the Division of Marine Fisheries Management in 2014 and has grown significantly since establishment.

Mission Statement

The FWC will minimize the adverse impacts of lionfish in Florida through prevention, detection, and control by applying agency resources; providing leadership through guidance, planning, and coordination; and empowering stakeholders and partners.


The FWC Lionfish Program manages state policy and regulations; hosts outreach, education, and control programs; and supports research to improve removal efforts and management.