A bounty on a fish?
Marine scientists say an invasion of lionfish could be threatening native North Carolina reef populations and, as a result, some areas of the state are encouraging spearfishing the fish, which typically eludes hook and line angling.
Known in the scientific community as Pterois volitans, lionfish are typically one-pound, footlong, reef bottom feeders with venomous spines that have no natural predators, according to The Daily Southerner.
Lionfish reach sexual maturity very quickly, have lifespans exceeding several decades, and a single female spawns 2 million eggs a year, so they are beginning to overpopulate. Known to be aggressive and have a voracious appetite, they feed in the wild on juvenile lobsters, snapper, grouper and other bottom reef fish fingerlings and aquatic nurseries, consuming 10 times as much as a same-size fish.
They are rarely caught on hook and line, making them difficult to harvest commercially, although spear fishermen find them to be a plentiful, stationary target around reefs, wrecks and structures.
That has led to tournaments such as the one a Morehead City diving club held this summer, which offered cash prizes for the bottom feeders, then cooked them to turn people on to the unique-tasting, flaky white meat.
The website www.reef.org seeks to conserve marine ecosystems by educating and informing marine enthusiasts. Tongue-in-cheek, it suggests that the solution to the dilemma is to, “Eat ’em to beat ’em.”