Divers from a Key Largo environmental group and a Miami science museum removed an orangespine unicornfish from a reef off the Upper Keys this week.
The underwater rapid response team was put together to prevent another exotic species like lionfish from getting a finhold in South Florida waters. Unicornfish are popular in the saltwater aquarium trade, and are native to the tropical Pacific.
According to the Key Largo-based Reef Environmental Education Fund, divers from Eckerd College first spotted the fish at Molasses Reef in late March. A local dive operator saw it again and the rapid response team put together by REEF and the U.S. Geological Survey was deployed to catch the fish.
Divers from REEF and the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science finally caught the fish Wednesday morning. It was taken to the Frost Museum where the plan is to have it join a display of exotic fish that have been captured and removed from Florida reefs.
Orangespine unicornfish have venomous spines like lionfish, though they eat seaweed and algae. Their potential impact on the Florida reef is unknown.
This is the 8th fish removed as part of the rapid response program. People who see non-native and invasive species in Florida waters can report them to the USGS Nonindegenous Aquatic Species Database.