AFP

ISLAMORADA

Clad in a gray hooded wetsuit, Eric Billips straps on his scuba tank, grabs a pole spear and nods at his dive buddy as they step feet-first off the boat and disappear with a splash into sparkling blue waters off the Florida Keys. The lionfish hunt is on. Billips, 42, speared his first lionfish six years ago and estimates he has since killed thousands of the invasive, venomous predators, as their numbers have exploded across the western Atlantic and Caribbean.