Are Lionfish a Problem in the Caribbean??
Lionfish are a venomous species of scorpionfish that are not native to the Caribbean. They are a beautiful treasured fish in aquariums that through purposeful and accidental release have been released in the American Tropics, Caribbean, and the Gulf of Mexico. Lionfish are believed to have shown up in the ocean waters as early as the 1980s.
Lionfish are native to the warm tropical waters of the South Pacific and Indian Oceans, including the Red Sea. With the introduction of Lionfish to the tropics, Caribbean, and the Gulf of Mexico, these fish have been seen as far north as Massachuessettes. They are now as far out into the Atlantic as Bermuda.
Are they a problem? Yes, these non-native fish have no known predators. They are out-breeding, out-competing, and out-living native fish stocks and other marine species. Lionfish live over 15 years and are not picky eaters. They consume fish, crabs, juvenile octopus, squid, juvenile lobster, sea horses, and more. As you can tell they are not selective about what they eat. They lay up to 30,000 eggs every 7 days. Let that sink in, 30,000 eggs every 7 days.
The native species that lionfish feed on do not recognize them as a predator. A single lionfish fish can reduce native creatures by 80% to 90% in its range within three weeks. These native marine species are important to maintaining the health of the reef and other native fish.
Bottom line is the invasive lionfish if left unchecked will ultimately impact the health of the reefs and native fish stocks.