THE LIONFISH - A CLEAR & PRESENT DANGER

THE LIONFISH - A CLEAR & PRESENT DANGER

Gabriela Pedrotti 2020-11-11 01:06:16

The beautiful & graceful Lionfish is native to the coral reefs of the South Pacific Ocean. Throughout the last few decades they have been collected by many for personal aquariums due to their graceful and colorful markings over their bodies. Unfortunately, it is speculated that their accidental introduction into the non-native Atlantic Ocean occurred during Hurricane Andrew in 1992, off the waters of South Florida. Lionfish in the Atlantic are considered an invasive species, and have created a severe problem for the natural ecosystem of the Atlantic Ocean.

The reefs of the Caribbean Sea have been suffering and are in a critical state due to impacting issues such as climate change and overfishing. The recent accidental introduction of this non-selective predator has created havoc amongst all local native fish. They lack natural enemies in the tropical western Atlantic, and have been observed consuming up to 20 fish in a 30-minute time frame. Their stomachs can expand up to 30 times their normal size after a meal. Studies have found that Lionfish consume over 50 different species of fish, many of which are overfished and already in critical levels. Although not usually deadly to humans, their long dorsal spines can also inflict a painful sting that can make one quite ill.

This imminent danger needs to addressed immediately. An attempt to eradicate the existing Lionfish population would more than likely be unsuccessful. We must find creative ways to control the population. There are fish in the Pacific that do feed on Lionfish like Sharks and Groupers. Apparently, Lionfish are quite tasty, and in the Atlantic, Mutton Snapper are becoming familiar with the newly introduced delicacy. Humans too, are becoming aware of their edible benefits. Studies show that Lionfish have the highest level of Omega-3 concentrations in their category, higher and more beneficial than, Red Snapper, Grouper, and Bluefin Tuna. We could possibly create an impacting demand for Lionfish harvest.

Although these immediate ideas cannot restore the ecosystem, they could possibly manage to slow the current population growth, so we can have a bit more time to find a solution.

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