- Invasive lionfish, which have no native predators, have wreaked havoc in Florida and the Caribbean and have now spread to Brazil.
About Invasive lionfish:
- Lionfish are one of the most pernicious invasive species swimming in oceans.
- And now, they’ve made it as far south as Brazil on their continuing and destructive territorial expansion.
- Lionfish have been migrating south for years.
- They were first caught in the Gulf of Mexico, likely released from the aquarium trade, in 1985, and quickly expanded into U.S. East Coast and the Caribbean.
- They reached South American coastlines around 2010.
- Lionfish are the first exotic species to invade coral reefs.
- They have multiplied at a rate that is almost unheard of in marine history, going from nonexistent to pervasive in just a few short years.
- Along the way, they’ve eaten or starved out local fish, disrupted commercial fishing, and threatened the tourism industry.
- Some experts believe that lionfish are so widespread that their effect on the ecosystems of the Western Atlantic will be almost impossible to reverse.
- Still, some people are determined to try, if only to protect those waters which haven’t yet been invaded.
- Lionfish are native to the warm tropical waters of the Indian and South Pacific Oceans, nearly 10,000 miles away from the Florida shore.
- There are many species of lionfish in the world’s oceans, and they can be hard to tell apart.
- Lionfish grow up to a foot long and sport candy cane stripes.
- Their sharp spines contain a powerful venom.
- Although a single prick from a lionfish spine can cause days of swelling, discomfort and even paralysis, Americans import thousands of lionfish every year for aquarium use.
- Lionfish herd smaller fish into pockets of coral reef or up against barriers and then swallow the prey in a single strike.
- In their native range, lionfish eat young damselfish, cardinal fish and shrimp, among others.
- In the Western Atlantic, samples of lionfish stomach contents show that they consume more than 50 different species, including shrimp and juvenile grouper and parrotfish, species that humans also enjoy.
- A lionfish’s stomach can expand up to 30 times its normal size after a meal.
- Their appetite is what makes lionfish such frightening invaders.
- Lionfish can be eaten safely if they are properly prepared to remove their venomous spines.
- In Florida and the Caribbean, lionfish hunting tournaments have become popular as a control method.
- However, lionfish move to deeper waters as they grow, so hunting alone can’t prevent them from spreading.