The lionfish invasion in Atlantic and Caribbean waters is getting worse. Here’s why:
- Not only is the population continuing to grow, but it is expanding to deeper waters.
- In their native waters in the Indo-Pacific, all other fish know to stay away from lionfish, but in the Atlantic and Caribbean the fish don’t know any better so they swim right up to these voracious predators.
- They are sexually mature by the age of one and they produce 30,000 to 40,000 eggs every few days.
- Lionfish have no known predators in these waters, except humans.
Because we are responsible for this invasion in the first place, many believe that it is our responsibility to reverse it.
The only way to do that is by killing lionfish, one fish at a time. They don’t go for bait so catching them with fishing lines or traps doesn’t work, which leaves spearfishing as the only effective method.
Two years of field studies in Little Cayman revealed that lionfish hunters are vital to protecting local reefs. The study is ongoing, but initial findings suggest that removal of lionfish from the ocean by divers is the most effective way to combat the invasion.
Scientists, conservationists, divers and resource managers gathered last week at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Lionfish Summit and came to a similar conclusion. They agreed that eradication of lionfish is impossible but culls in specific areas can be effective. Lionfish derbies have been held in South Florida in the past, and there might be many more, much more frequently in the near future.
Many groups at the Lionfish Summit believe that there should be strong incentives for divers to collect lionfish and great prizes for the ones who catch the most. They also agreed that lionfish should be promoted as a delicious meal throughout Florida.
Hopefully we’ll soon start seeing more lionfish on menus around the state!
To learn more about lionfish:
- Take a look at MST’s collection of lionfish articles: Everything You Need to Know About Lionfish
- Read more about Florida’s war on lionfish: Florida starts planning to attack invasive lionfish
- Watch this segment about lionfish on CNN: Lionfish infestation in Atlantic Ocean a growing epidemic
- Read more about the Little Cayman study: Little Cayman study shows success of lionfish culling
Copyright © 2013 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.