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Officials want you to eat more lionfish, so they go away

They are trying to create a demand for the fish to help reduce its numbers.

You may have started to see lionfish in the seafood section of markets. The state wants you to give the fish a try.

Lionfish are a non-native, invasive species. They belong in the Pacific Ocean.

How did they here? In the 1980s, some of the fish spilled out of an aquarium and into the Gulf. And, now they are found along the East Coast, in the Caribbean and along Florida shores.

The lionfish is a predator, but it has no one that preys on it. 

That's why the state wants people to fill that role.

"If you don't take care of this problem it's going to affect your whole fish supply, so you want to go and get a snapper or a grouper at a restaurant, there are not going to be any left if we don't take care of this now," said spear fisherman Justin Venditti.

Lionfish can reproduce from age 1, compared to 5 to 8 for other reef fish. The average female can spawn more than 3 million eggs a year.

They can thrive from shallow water down to a thousand feet in all temperatures.

And they've got 18 spines that contain a painful venom.

RELATED: How lionfish are the scourge of the Gulf of Mexico

A weekend lionfish derby in Sarasota was canceled because of weather, but a "Taste of the Lionfish" event will go on as planned Sunday. The event at Mote Marine Laboratory is sold out.

There will be two other tournaments coming up in St. Petersburg and Sarasota.

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