Invasive Lionfish Program

Lionfish Reports
Have you seen or captured a lionfish? Help REEF and USGS track the invasion by submitting a report.  You can also use this form to submit details about other non-native marine species seen while diving or snorkeling.

Lionfish Resources
Information on collecting and/or reporting lionfish, safe handling practices, preparing and eating lionfish, current research and media attention, and lionfish quickfacts. 

Lionfish Derbies
REEF Lionfish Derbies in Florida; including upcoming derby dates, derby team registration, and past results. 

REEF Sanctioned Lionfish Derbies 
Join this program and host your own successful lionfish derby with our help.  

Lionfish Collecting & Handling Workshops
Attend a lionfish workshop and removal dive to learn about the invasion, safe collecting and handling techniques, and to obtain collection permits for the FKNMS SPAs.

REEF Lionfish Jewelry Workshops create a market to promote lionfish removal from our coral reefs. Through participation in this workshop, you are helping to keep our oceans healthy, vibrant and lionfish free!


REEF Invasive Lionfish Program Is On Facebook!



What's The Problem?

For a quick one-page fact sheet put together by REEF, USGS, NOAA, and Simon Fraser University on invasive lionfish, click here

Lionfish are:
Voracious predators being shown to eat native fish and crustaceans in large quantities, including both ecologically and economically important species like grunts, snapper, nassau grouper, and cleaner shrimp
2) Not known to have any native predators
Equipped with venomous dorsal, ventral and anal spines, which deter predators and can cause painful wounds to humans
4) Capable of reproducing year-round with unique reproduction mechanisms not commonly found in native fishes (females can reproduce every 2-4 days!)
5) Relatively resistant to parasites, giving them another advantage over native species
6) Fast in their growth, able to outgrow native species with whom they compete for food and space

Non-native marine fishes can pose a major threat to marine fisheries, habitats, and eco-system function.  Increased reports of non-native species and the successful invasion of lionfish in Atlantic waters have proven the need for early warning and rapid response to confirmed sightings.  The Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF), has been working with Federal, State, and local partners as well as divers and dive operators, public aquaria, and foreign fisheries departments to enact rapid response protocol and removals and to assist with scientific investigations related to non-native marine species.

Indo-pacific Red Lionfish (Pterois volitans) have been documented along the entire US East Coast from Florida through Massachusetts, east to Bermuda and south throughout the Caribbean. The expansion has been extremely rapid and exponential in scope.

What is REEF doing about it?

Since 1994, REEF has maintained an on-line educational section on non-native species as well as an on-line exotic species reporting page.  Divers are encouraged to submit any sightings of non-native species via this sightings reporting form.  Since 2006, REEF has been working in close partnership with government agencies and partners throughout the region to help develop lionfish response plans, train resource managers and dive operators in effective collecting and handling techniques and conduct cutting edge research to help address the invasion.  To aid in this effort, REEF currently enlists interested divers and snorkelers to join organized lionfish research and removal projects and encourages public participation in helping address the invasion. 

How you can help:

  • If you see or capture an invasive lionfish, please report your encounter in our Exotic Species Sighting Form.
  • If you are conducting a REEF survey and encounter a lionfish (or any non-native species), please report the species as a write in species on the back of the REEF scansheet.  Whenever possible, please include an extra sheet of paper with extended details about habitat the fish was in, behaviors noted, other species it associated with, and approximate size.  Also indicate if you have photo/video of the fish.  Be sure to enter this information when entering your survey data onto the websit and please report your sighting through our exotic species online reporting form as well.
  • Participate in a REEF Lionfish Research Trip.
  • Attend a Lionfish Workshop for more information and to obtain a permit to collect lionfish in the SPAs.
  • Sign up for a Lionfish Derby to remove lionfish from the reefs while entering to win great prizes.
  • Ask for lionfish at your local restaurant. (see who's serving here)

Collaborative Team and Major Supporters

The Lionfish studies have been part of a collaborative program between REEF and several partners, including:

Funding for the Lionfish Program provided by The Elizabeth Ordway Dunn Foundation and NOAA National Marine Sanctuary Program.

Generous logistical support has also been provided by Bruce Purdy, Stuart Cove's Dive Bahamas, and David and Trish Ferguson. Dozens of REEF volunteers have donated their time to assist with field research.







Design by Joanne Kidd, development by Ben Weintraub