Native to Indo-Pacific seas, lionfish have made their way to faraway parts of the world in recent times. However, they are not exactly welcome guests. Blamed on the dumping of aquatic pets in places such as the Caribbean and southeastern United States, lionfish have disrupted entire ecosystems as an invasive species. They are now thriving in areas where they have no natural enemies. Following are ways this species is having an impact and how to control them.
Although not a large fish, lionfish dine on fish, mollusks, and other invertebrates. This puts them in direct competition with native fish, especially ones that have commercial value. They also decimate populations of tropical fish that inhabit coral reefs and other areas. This affects both fisheries and tourism.
Invasive lionfish prey upon over twenty families of reef fish and crustaceans. Young lionfish feed on crustaceans that otherwise support small fish, and adult lionfish almost exclusively consume fish. Atlantic and Caribbean fish have no natural defense mechanisms against this species. Many think a lionfish is slow-moving mass of seaweed and cannot get away before it’s too late.
Lionfish Population Control
With no natural predators, humans must control lionfish populations. However, this task isn’t that difficult. Harvesting this invasive species is now a tourist attraction.
Lionfish spearfishing is one of the most popular methods of removing it from valuable coral reefs. Tourists gain the experience of exploring reefs while contributing to the preservation of all species. The high food value also rewards lionfish spearfishing with a tasty meal.