Looking like a piece of artwork rather than a fish, red lionfish are elegant and unique. They’re quite beautiful to examine. However, these fish are nothing to be celebrating. In fact, we should be worried.
Red lionfish spread across much of the Caribbean Sea and as far north up the east coast to Rhode Island. In the Atlantic, lionfish are deemed an invasive species. An invasive species is a non-native organism that has imposed on an environment. They could lead to considerable damaging effects on native animal and plant life, the local economy, and even human health.
It is hypothesized that the origin of the issue was that a measly six red lionfish were unintentionally released during the course of hurricane Andrew from an aquarium in 1992. Lacking any natural predators and with an exceptionally great reproductive rate of two million eggs per year from a single female, it is expected that they have spread extremely quickly.
Lionfish are ravenous predators and are further harming the already endangered Caribbean reefs. Lionfish are non-selective feeders, which basically means they will literally eat anything. They are your gluttonous cousin who eats five times over his acceptable allotment of food at family gatherings. Lionfish embody the label of “bottomless pit.” They have been examined devouring twenty small fish in a thirty-minute interval and prey that is 2/3 of their own body length. Remarkably, their stomachs can swell up to thirty times their usual size following a feeding. They give a whole new meaning to being bloated after a meal. Additionally, lionfish munch through more than fifty various species, a lot of which are overfished and reduced to already dangerous quantities. Given this intense rate of consumption, red lionfish are out competing native predators for their resources while dropping the fish populace by means of direct predation. Is there anything that lionfish don’t harm? They’re hazardous to the delicate ecosystems, but can also dish out an awfully excruciating sting with their barbs to humans. The stings are not usually deadly for humans but can cause great pain and discomfort.
Is there a solution to all of this? Well, not really. Experts are doing their best to manage and control the lionfish to slow the spread as well as buy more time for a lasting solution, but efforts are doubtful in bringing back the ecosystem balance. Who knows? Maybe lionfish will be worked into our diets as an eco-conscious choice. Who wants to try lionfish sushi?
Cover Image via TodaysHomepage.com