A Blue View: Lionfish Invade Our Seas

by John Racanelli, Chief Executive Officer

Published March 13, 2013

A Blue View is a weekly perspective on the life aquatic, hosted by National Aquarium CEO John Racanelli.

From the smallest plants and animals invisible to the human eye to entire ecosystems, every living thing depends on and is intricately linked by water.

Tune in to 88.1 WYPR every Tuesday at 5:45 pm as John brings to the surface important issues and fascinating discoveries making waves in the world today.

March 13, 2013: Lionfish Invade Our Seas

Click here to listen to John and aquarist Ashleigh Clews discuss the threat lionfish pose to the health of our oceans.

Since 1992, when Pacific lionfish were first sighted in South Florida waters, this fish has become widely established all along the southeast United States and the Caribbean Sea, even being spotted as far north as New York. These distinctive looking fish—red and white striped with long pectoral fins and needle-like dorsal fins, have profoundly impacted the health of the ecosystems where they now reside.

So, how were these species introduced into local waters? Ashleigh Clews, a senior aquarist at the Aquarium, says it's likely that the species was first introduced by home aquarium owners. Although these fish are popular in the trade, they often outgrow their tanks and will sometimes prey on other fish.

There was an estimated population boom of 700 percent between 2004 and 2008 in invaded areas. This presence of lionfish in the Atlantic is causing many problems. They're eating native fish and crustaceans and destroying native habitats and ecosystems. Additionally, with no real predators and an average spawn rate of close to 2 million eggs a year, this species shows no sign of disappearing on its own.

Conservationists and researchers are working to address this growing problem through a variety of initiatives, including raising awareness of lionfish as a sustainable seafood option!

Have you ever eaten lionfish? Tell us about your experience in the comments! 

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