Lionfish Removal


Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary encourages the safe removal of invasive lionfish from its waters. Lionfish may be harvested from within the sanctuary without special permits as long as all existing state and federal (FKNMS) regulations are followed regarding no fishing areas and allowable gear types.

A Florida saltwater fishing license is not required to harvest lionfish from Florida waters if using handnets, pole spears, Hawaiian slings, or other spearing devices created and marketed exclusively for lionfish collection. There is no recreational or commercial limit on the number of lionfish an individual can collect from Florida. See the FWC lionfish page for specific information.

No Fishing Areas

Fishing, harvesting, or collecting of any kind, including lionfish, is prohibited in:

Location of the fully protected marine zones may be found on the FKNMS zone map page. Additional maps are available in the FKNMS map library.

No Spearfishing Areas

Spearfishing is prohibited in the following areas of Monroe County. See the Spearfishing Regulations for Monroe County brochure for a summary:

  • State waters from Long Key north to the Miami-Dade County line, including waters on the bayside (north/northeast) and oceanside (south/southeast) of Long Key
  • All Florida State Parks
  • Everglades National Park and Dry Tortugas National Park (these National Parks are not within the sanctuary, but are within Monroe County)
  • Key Largo Existing Management Area – Federal waters adjacent to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, extending to 300 foot depth
  • Looe Key Existing Management Area – Five square nautical mile area of federal waters surrounding Looe Key reef
  • Sanctuary Preservation Areas, Special Use (Research Only) Areas, or Ecological Reserves (see links above)
  • Manmade Canals in Unincorporated Monroe County & City of Marathon
  • Beaches, Piers, Bridges – Within 100 yards of a public swimming beach, any commercial or public fishing pier, or any part of a bridge from which public fishing is allowed
  • Jetties – Within 100 feet of any part of a jetty that is above the surface of the sea, except for the last 500 yards of a jetty that extends more than 1,500 yards from the shoreline

Possession of Spearfishing Equipment

Possessing spearfishing equipment is prohibited in:

  • All Florida State Parks
  • Everglades National Park and Dry Tortugas National Park
  • Key Largo and Looe Key Existing Management Areas, except while transiting through without stopping
  • Sanctuary Preservation Areas or Ecological Reserves, except gear capable of harvesting fish may be aboard a vessel if it is not available for immediate use when entering and during transit through the zone

Additional Lionfish Resources

  • FKNMS works with research partners to provide special permission to remove lionfish from protected zones, and issues permits for organized lionfish derbies to cull this invasive species.
  • Reporting lionfish sightings provides useful data to experts addressing the invasion. If you do see lionfish in the SPAs or other areas where they cannot be harvested you can report them via REEF's online reporting form.
  • Check out the Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) lionfish derby website for information on when the next derby is happening and how to get involved.
  • While on REEF's website, why not sign up for a lionfish handling workshop? These workshops are free to all participants and ensure you'll know how to harvest lionfish safely.
  • If you have observed, taken video, or photographed native species preying upon lionfish, be sure to report it to REEF. Examples include lionfish in stomach content of captured fish, diver observations of native predators stalking lionfish, and attempts of predation and successful capture. REEF is only interested in unaided, natural observations of predation on lionfish, as attempting to feed lionfish to native predators could alter behavior and be dangerous to native fish.