Marine Conservationist John Clay Dickinson Recognized by Florida Governor Rick Scott for Lionfish Eradication Efforts

Rachel Janea McGinnis
3 min readDec 31, 2019


Florida is a massive state with a landscape as diverse as its population. Regardless of whether they’re a snowbird living in Orlando or a surfer in Miami, there are a few things most Floridians can agree upon. Among them are a distaste for humidity, a distrust of alligators, and a disdain for lionfish.

Lionfish are numerous along the coasts of Florida, and while they may look harmless enough with their bright colors and pretty fins, they are actually quite destructive. The species, which is not native to the area, has wreaked such havoc on the local ecosystem as to have garnered attention from state politicians, including Rick Scott. In 2018, Rick Scott recognized the efforts of local marine conservationists, including John Clay Dickinson and Rachel Janea McGinnis, who demonstrated exemplary effort in removing lionfish from the state’s waters.

Then-governor Rick Scott signed a bill (SB 168) in 2018 aimed at reducing the number of lionfish and other invasive species. The bill was unanimously approved by the state Legislature and established a program that allowed the commission to enter contracts with people and organizations to eliminate lionfish from the area.

John Clay Dickinson and Rachel McGinnis of Palm Beach are marine experts and co-owners of Florida Scuba Divers. The pair is well-known for their contribution to lionfish removal efforts throughout the years. While doing good is enough incentive for the conservationists, the signed card of recognition from the former governor was an honor to receive.

John Clay Dickinson explained that the lionfish invasion has been called one of The Atlantic’s most devastating environmental disasters. In the past 30 years, the species has decimated native marine life and wreaked havoc on Florida’s reefs. Native to the Indo-Pacific, the fish were likely brought to the U.S. southeast coast, Caribbean, and parts of the Gulf of Mexico by humans. It is possible that, in part, the issue was caused by people dumping unwanted fish from aquariums into the ocean.

Because they’re not native, lionfish have very few natural predators and have become vastly overpopulated. John Dickinson explained that, like any invasive species with a population of this scale, they’re a serious threat to the native ecosystem, capable of reducing biodiversity, consuming resources previously available for native organisms, and potentially driving native species to extinction. Being carnivorous, they also threaten Florida’s fishing economy as they feed on young commercial fish species such as grouper and snapper.

With the support of the Florida government, local groups, including the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) arrange regular lionfish removal events. Volunteers like John Dickinson of Palm Beach and Rachel Janea McGinnis along with hundreds of others remove the fish from the waters in an effort to conserve the local ecosystem. John Clay Dickinson & Rachel McGinnis has consistently earned recognition year after year for their impressive haul of lionfish during such removal events.

Florida Scuba Divers, in an effort to educate customers about the lionfish problem, keeps a lionfish on the front counter of the shop in an aquarium. Customers can see the species up-close and get a deeper understanding of the delicate balance that is the marine ecosystem. Discussing the problematic invasive species also opens the way for broader discussions about marine conservation and what individuals, families, and communities can do to lend a hand to protect the oceans and seas.

More on Florida Scuba Divers

Florida Scuba Divers is the North Palm Beach’s one-stop-shop for all things SCUBA, with a broad range of products, from dive suits to gear, and offerings of e-learning and certifications for divers of all levels. Within one year in business, John Clay Dickinson and Rachel Janea McGinnis are proud to have served countless customers. The pair have inspired a love of SCUBA in numerous newcomers, in addition to sharing their expertise and enthusiasm with fellow advanced divers. With a dedication to quality, education, and customer service, it’s no wonder the shop has already earned 135 well-earned five-star reviews from customers via Google Business Reviews as of December. This December, the shop will officially celebrate its one-year anniversary.

For more information about Florida Scuba Divers, visit the website: or follow them on Instagram: or Facebook:



Rachel Janea McGinnis

Rachel Janea McGinnis’ passion for the ocean and her desire to keep it beautiful and clean has always been a priority. She has won several awards for her work.