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Why Lionfish Don't Belong in the Caribbean

Photo: Cassie

Lionfish are an invasive species from the Indo-Pacific. Their venomous spines and lack of natural predators in the Caribbean make them extremely harmful to our reefs and ourselves. How exactly did they get here? It's not known for sure but in theory we believe they were thrown into the ocean from fish tanks, accidentally brought over in bilge pumps or unfortunately got lose from aquariums during Hurricane's such as Katrina. When we see a lionfish on the reef here in St. Thomas, we carefully use a speargun to get rid of it. Sharks, Eels, and Octopus then like to come find them and will eat the newly dead fish. It's important to stay educated on harmful fish like these so you know what to do if you see them.

A few facts about lionfish:

  • One lionfish can eat 80% of all the juvenile fish off of one coral head in less than 5 weeks.

  • The female lionfish can lay up to 30,000 eggs every 4 days

  • Lionfish have 18 venomous spines, so you probably don't want to touch one of those.

  • If you get hit by the lionfish, safely surface as quickly as possible, run the puncture under the hottest water you can bear for 30-60 seconds and seek medical attention immediately.

Hopefully one day we will be able to find an alternative way to keep our reefs protected from this species. It's unknown if we will ever be able to control the invasion of lionfish here in the caribbean, but we can do our best to eliminate the ones we do find on our reefs.

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