They are beautiful, flamboyant, venomous, and an incredible threat to biodiversity along the east coast of North America and down into the Caribbean Sea.
Lionfish are native to the Indo-Pacific but were accidentally introduced to the Atlantic coast sometime between 1985 and 1990. Since that time, lionfish numbers have boomed drastically. They have no natural predators in this part of the world and they mate very frequently. One female will release two eggs clusters that can contain as many as 15'000 eggs. That's a lot of baby lionfish.
Lionfish are not picky eaters, either. They will eat almost any small fish, as well as invertebrates and mollusks. And they eat voraciously. This, combined with the fact that native fish species do not recognize them as a predator, has led to a dramatic decrease in native fish populations in areas where lionfish are present. Atlantic reef biodiversity could be decreasing by as much as 80% because of lionfish.
"Atlantic reef biodiversity could be decreasing by as much as 80% because of lionfish."
Invasive species is a major threat facing oceans. So what can we do about it?
As the saying goes, "If you can't beat 'em, eat em." While major efforts are underway to address the lionfish population, creating a commercial demand for lionfish is a great way to help fight the problem. Lionfish, though mildly dangerous thanks to their long, venomous spines, actually make for a tasty meal when prepared correctly.
If traveling throughout the Atlantic coast of the US or in the Caribbean, check local menus for lionfish meals. Creating commercial demand encourages the fishing industry to catch and sell lionfish to the food industry.
If you don't, you could find that lionfish are the only fish on restaurant menus in the future as they continue to decrease other fish populations throughout the coastal waters of North and Central America.
So, would you eat this funky fish? Let us know what you think in the comments below!