Sunday, March 11, 2012

Lionfish in the USVI

March 11, 2012 
Ah, a lionfish sighting in the USVI!  Rich & I, snorkeling off Brewer’s Bay near the airport, spotted this beautiful, but extremely predatory lionfish.  
Photo from Internet
Internet Photo
Released into US waters from home aquariums in the early 1900’s, these fish are multiplying and spreading throughout the Atlantic & Caribbean Sea, and have become a major threat to coral reef ecosystems.                                       

Voracious, these fish eat other species of fish constantly.  It’s been found that within a short period after the entry of lionfish into an area, other reef fish are depleted by about 80 percent.  Once that happens, the delicate ecological balance of life is ‘off’,  and the coral reef begins to die. 

These fish have no known predator; they eat other fish up to 2/3 their size and have been seen eating up to 20 small fish within 30 minutes.  Multiply that....they never stop eating!  AND they multiply like crazy too.  AND no one knows how to manage this species or how to get rid of them. 

Rich, from Dance Aweigh, searching for more lionfish
The sharp spines on the fish contain a poison that is extremely painful and can be fatal to humans if one has heart problems or an allergy to the toxin. 

I'm always excited to spot a new fish underwater while snorkeling, but not this time.   I experienced an overwhelming saddness when I spotted this one.  The reefs and fish I love so much here now face the potential to be totally destroyed.    

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