Captain Gordon Monsen of S/Y Liberte chartering in the Caribbean brought this to my attention. Gordon had a story about this pest of a fish and the damage it is creating in the Caribbean Sea. This is of great concern to all who love the Caribbean. Lion Fish in the Caribbean is making it to the dinner table.
Here is what Gordon wrote about:
Lion Fish Invasion In The Caribbean Is Getting Worse!
This Super Predator Is Threatening Our Caribbean Coral Reefs…
Indo-Pacific Lionfish are rapidly invading the waters of the Caribbean and tropical Atlantic. Due to their population explosion and aggressive behavior, Lionfish have the potential to become the most disastrous marine invasion in history. Thereby drastically reducing the abundance of coral reef fishes and leaving behind a devastated ecosystem.
This maroon-striped marauder with venomous spikes is rapidly multiplying in the Caribbean’s warm waters. Swallowing native species, stinging divers, and generally wreaking havoc on an ecologically delicate region.
The Lionfish Invasion is not yet visibly affecting the Northern Caribbean reefs in the areas where we operate. However, the future is somewhat worrying if this problem is allowed to get totally out of hand. Every effort is being made to deal with this predator within the British Virgin Islands and surrounding Islands to keep the situation under control. Local fishermen are rewarded for catching Lionfish. And many local dive operations have been encouraged to catch any Lionfish they see on dives and kill the fish for a reward.
With ongoing conservation efforts throughout the Northern Caribbean, it may be possible to slow this invasion totally and save the reefs and fish from the Lionfish. Only a few Lionfish have been spotted. But the numbers do seem to be increasing slowly. Indeed it is evident that more effort needs to be made to slow the reproduction and spread of the Lionfish within these waters.
The Lionfish, native to the Indo-Pacific region, have infiltrated their way into the Caribbean. Their introduction is believed to result from hurricanes and tank releases during the early 1990s.
They have been spotted along the Eastern seaboard spanning as far north as Rhode Island to as far south as Columbia. Protected by venomous spines, lionfish are voracious and effective predators. When hunting, they herd and corner their prey using their pectoral fins, then quickly strike and swallow their prey whole.
With few known natural predators, the lionfish poses a significant threat to coral reef ecosystems in the Caribbean region by decreasing the survival of a wide range of native reef animals via both predation and competition. While native grouper may prey on lionfish, they have been overfished and are unlikely to significantly reduce the effects of invasive lionfish on coral reef communities.
They are not aggressive toward humans, and their sting is not fatal—no available estimates for the number of stung tourists. But marine officials say swimmers will be more at risk as the venomous species overtakes tropical waters along famous Caribbean beaches.
The slow-moving fish, which measures about 18 inches, is easy to snare. However, Lionfish swim too deep for divers to catch in nets. The standard method of dealing with invasive species.
This has forced researchers to figure out what will eat the menacing beauties in their new Caribbean home. They experiment with predators such as sharks, moray eels, and even humans.
Adventurous eaters describe the taste of Lionfish fillets as resembling halibut. But so far, they are a tough sell. Hungry sharks typically veer abruptly away when researchers try to hand-feed them a Lionfish.
One predator that will eat lionfish is the grouper, which is rare in the lionfish’s natural Southeast-Asian habitat. Scientists are pinning long-range hopes on establishing new ocean reserves, which will protect grouper and other lionfish predators from overfishing.
On occasion, researchers witnessed a Lionfish consume 20 small reef fish in 30 minutes. And it is not unusual to observe Lionfish consuming prey up to 2/3 of its length.
In Africa, the Nile Perch rendered more than 200 fish species extinct when it was introduced into Lake Victoria. The World Conservation Union calls it one of the 100 worst alien species invasions.
These Alien Fish Species invasions are common and frequently happen in freshwater, but there has never been a sizeable Predatory invasion in our Oceans before…
A Lionfish’s spines are venomous, and when they come into contact with humans, they can conflict extreme pain…
Containing the spread of the Lionfish is an uphill fight. Some people believe the best way to eradicate these fish would be to include them on the local Dinner menus. Diners can order Lionfish in the Caribbean for dinner. In addition, the more people want to eat them, the more the local fishing communities will target these invaders. Restaurants could advertise them as their conservation dish.
As lionfish in the Caribbean colonize more territory, they feed on grazing fish that keep seaweed from overwhelming coral reefs. These reefs are buffeted by climate change, pollution, and other environmental pressures.
Additional information at NOAA Research