Nearly 30 years after the first lionfish was spotted off South Florida, the venomous, ravenous invasive species has spread at an alarming rate.
Along the way, the predators are wreaking havoc on delicate reefs off Florida, the Gulf Coast, the Caribbean and even parts of South America.
“They eat anything that fits in their mouths. They reproduce copiously and adapt effortlessly. And they have become as ubiquitous and pesky as rats — only prettier and more conniving,” reads a new science report by The New York Times.
“Eradication is not on the table, but local control has proven to be very effective,” Lad Akins, special projects director for the Reef Environmental Education Foundation, a grassroots organization helping to curb the proliferation of lionfish, told the Times. “They are what many people call a near-perfect invader.”
In the last few months, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission voted to ban the importing of lionfish and breeding the fish in the state. The fact that a fishing license requirement was lifted when it comes to lionfish speaks volumes about the issue at hand.
Capt. Mike Genoun, the host of Florida Sport Fishing TV, discusses the threat that lionfish pose:
In a separate fisheries development, President Obama has moved forward with a plan to vastly expand three remote U.S. reserves in the central Pacific Ocean into a massive national monument.
Obama will extend fishing bans and other monument protections to include the entire U.S. exclusive economic zone around the islands of Jarvis, Johnson, and Wake (the zone extends as far as 200 nautical miles offshore).
Fishing groups had opposed closing the tuna fishing areas, saying it would have created economic hardship; conservation groups are applauding the move.
As detailed in a new report by Science magazine, marine researchers predict that the move will benefit a vast array of marine creatures by helping protect relatively remote and intact ecosystems, but they note that any benefits could be decades away for some of the region’s most heavily exploited fish, including certain species of tuna.
How fast those populations recover could depend partly on just how “lazy” some of the fish are.