Sea Creature Feature of The Week: Lionfish

Be advised that this species is invasive in various sections of the Atlantic Ocean, from New York to Bermuda. The lionfish is found naturally in the Indo-Pacific Ocean. The lionfish endangers various ecosystems, including coral reefs, as well as the commercial and recreational populations of several key fish. According to NOAA, lionfish lower the recruitment of many native fish on coral reefs by 79%.

Climate change, pollution, and other factors are already wreaking havoc on coral reefs. Coral reefs will face additional stress if lionfish continue to proliferate and occupy the reefs. Lionfish eat about 50 diverse types of fish, including, but not limited to, any species that fits in their mouth. Lionfish have no natural predators, which is why they are so invasive. It is unknown what their predators are in their natural region, although it is suspected that sharks and large fish prey on them.

The lionfish’s 18 spines are extremely poisonous, and symptoms including discomfort, perspiration, respiratory difficulties, and even paralysis can result in stings that persist for days. If you are stung by a lionfish, get medical assistance right away.

View NOAA’s Invasive Lionfish Web Portal HERE to see the impacts of this invasive species on the Atlantic Ocean since 1985.

The Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary suggests the following actions you may take to contribute.

1. Make sure you are not part of the problem. DO NOT release non-native species of any kind into your local ecosystem. Not all will survive, but those that do become established can wreak havoc. Lionfish are just one example.

2. Participate in removal events in places where they occur. Derbies are hosted at regular intervals in the Florida Keys and many other Caribbean locations. FGBNMS hosts more structured Lionfish Invitationals that also serve to collect important scientific information.

3. Spread the word!