The Lionfish Apocalypse

The Lionfish Apocalypse

For anyone in or around the waters these days, there is no need to wait for a zombie apocalypse—the maritime version has already arrived!

Most people call them Lionfish. They are everywhere! Native to the Pacific waters, they were first spotted in the Atlantic waters off Miami, Florida around 1985. Now they are throughout the region. Please check out the graphics—they are frightening!



Courtesy of Dr. Pam Schofield, USGS


This invasive species devours many of the native inhabitants; they are territorial and as most know, pack toxins in their 18 venomous spines. The stress they are adding to our already taxed reefs and underwater ecosystems is hard to measure, but the situation is quite dire!

Lionfish mature at one year of age. Mature Lionfish lay 50,000 eggs every 3 days! Some estimates put a single female’s egg production at 6 million eggs per year! They live an average of 30 years and have no known predators (sans humans) in the Atlantic region. Hence, many feel this is why their population has exploded since the early sightings. In actual fact, the density of their population is 17 times more than in their native Pacific waters!

ONMS-NOAA LionfishBytheNumbers.jpg

Courtesy of National Marine Sanctuaries & NOAA


So what can we do? First of all, eat them! Properly prepared they are delicious! Support establishments that serve them on plates and enjoy the experience. This is a good thing because if you really look at the numbers, and the destructive properties of this species, many of the fish that we currently enjoy consuming ourselves, will be gone!

Commercial fishing from the Gulf Coast all the way to New England is now affected by this invasion. I will write more about trying to get the US government to help, but all the government seems to do is get in their own way and do nothing while these numbers persist in rising.

Another way  to help is you can support the numerous Lionfish derbies that take place. You generally have non-commercial fisherman going out and trying to get the most Lionfish in any given time period. These can be fun to both participate in and just support in general. But they only make a dent in the numbers. The numbers caught as a by-catch by commercial fisherman alone is pretty staggering.

Try and support local groups attempting to get involved in this very dire situation. Attend environmental seminars and information events.

Most importantly, contact your senators and congressmen and tell them it is important that they give their support to groups and even government departments that are fighting this problem. Very few know of the problem—or if they do, they are ignored.

More on this very soon…