Reef Assassin Act

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House of Representatives Passes Congressman Matt Gaetz’s “Reef Assassin Act” Amendment to H.R. 200
July 12, 2018
Press Release

Washington, D.C. — The U.S. House of Representatives yesterday unanimously passed Congressman Matt Gaetz’s (FL-01) “Reef Assassin Act” amendment to H.R. 200, the Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act. The amendment will encourage the elimination of lionfish from our waters. It allows individuals to trade 100 harvested lionfish tails for one tag authorizing fishing for coveted reef fish: red snapper, gag grouper, triggerfish, and amberjack.

The lionfish population has exploded over the last three decades; they can now be found throughout the Atlantic coast, the Bahamas, and the Gulf of Mexico. A single female lionfish releases 30,000 eggs every two to four days — two million eggs per year. Lionfish harm coral reefs by eating the native reef fish at an alarming rate, which is extremely detrimental to the health of coral reefs. They have no natural predators, which allows their population to grow rapidly. They have caused billions of dollars of economic damage. If nothing is done to mitigate the lionfish infestation, fisheries throughout the southeastern United States will be forced to close.

The Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act, with the inclusion of Rep. Gaetz’s amendment, passed the House last night with a vote of 222-193.

Prior to the vote, Rep. Gaetz spoke on the House floor urging his colleagues to support his amendment.


Local support for Rep. Gaetz’s Reef Assassin Act include the following:

“Incentives matter. They can be a power motivator for getting more Floridians engaged in lionfish eradication. We applaud Congressman Gaetz for his new incentives-based legislation, and for bringing creative solutions and heightened awareness to the lionfish threat,” said Brian Yablonski, Chairman of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

When asked about the Reef Assassin Act, Bob Jones, Executive Director of the Southeastern Fisheries Association, said “This is a very innovative idea that should be supported by the entire fishing industry, and all industries interested in ridding our waters of this invasive fish.”

“For three decades, scientists have documented the decline in the health of our native fisheries due to the lionfish population explosion, and yet, the regulatory agencies charged with protecting our fisheries have taken no action to minimize the environmental devastation. Thank you, Congressman Gaetz, and to all cosponsors of this legislation, for taking action,” said Candy Hansard, President of the Emerald Coast Reef Association.

“The lionfish is threatening the sustainability of our native fisheries, ultimately harming our food supply and businesses. Congressman Matt Gaetz is showing true leadership in this area, protecting our native fisheries and local businesses,” said Parker Destin, City Councilman of Destin, Florida.

“I am grateful to have someone in Washington willing to take on issues that affect us here locally. The lionfish is thriving — at the expense of our native fish and reefs. It is time for us to stop monitoring the situation, and start addressing it,” said Collier Merrill, restaurateur with the Great Southern Restaurant Group.

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