Lionfish are becoming a huge issue for the southern coast of the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. Native to the Pacific but not to the Atlantic, they are an invasive species: a non-native species that has invaded an area and may have long-term and seriously adverse effects on native species and their habitats.
Lionfish are non-selective, voracious eaters. They consume a wide-variety of fish and crustaceans, often feeding on over-fished and endangered populations. Additionally, they have very few natural predators and minimal competition because they are non-indigenous to the Atlantic. With no real enemies or opposition, high breeding rates, and an almost insatiable appetite the lionfish are proving detrimental to coastal ecosystems.
Our Senior Biologist Arnold Postell has extensive diving experience with lionfish collection and removal. “Lionfish have no natural predators and is depleting the fish and other marine life in our waters,” Arnold says. “We can trace the lionfish invasion back to just nine specimens. It doesn’t matter at this point how they got into our coastal waters, but rather what we can do now to decrease their impact on reefs and marine environments.”
Efforts on population-control include the introduction of the lionfish into our seafood – they are an extremely tasty, white, flaky fish and make a great addition to seafood menus. More and more local restaurants have included lionfish, whenever available, on their menus, including Fleet Landing and Slightly North of Broad. Wholesale fisheries, such as Norman’s Lionfish, are available for consumers to purchase lionfish in bulk.
Though there are no clear, end-all answers yet to the over-population of lionfish, we can hopefully slow the spread and buy time for a solution.
Be sure to stop by the lionfish exhibit during your next visit to the Aquarium. Learn more about how you can help prevent invasive species from our waters and experience these beautiful but dangerous fish.