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Lionfish Female Can Release 2 Million Eggs Yearly

Recently a NOAA article about lionfish noted the potential for lionfish populations in U.S. waters to increase greatly, “They have no known predators and can reproduce rapidly, a mature female releases roughly two million eggs a year.” Another source states that females are reproductively active all year round, and could produce even more than that, “Females spawn year round, every 4 days and produce 25,000 eggs per batch or spawning. ”

The NOAA article also states lionfish off North Carolina coasts increased 700 percent from 2004 to 2008. But lionfish populations are even larger in the Bahamas, “Bahamas mean = 983/acre with a maximum of 1,343 per acre.”

The problem is the lionfish can eat a very large number of the native fish and in doing so disrupt reef ecology, and as noted above no species in the Atlantic is eating them, so they can grow unchecked.  Another  article reported the ravenous, venomous interlopers can, “…consume 80 percent of a reef’s population of small fish in just weeks.”

Conservationist Lad Adkins said of the invasive lionfish, “They eat other fish, crustaceans, mollusks, and octopus. Almost anything that moves and will go into that mouth, even up to half their own body size, is potential prey.” Lionfish are native to the Pacific Ocean and Indian Oceans, and are popular with American aquarium owners for their bright colors and slow, hypnotic movements. It is thought lionfish got into Florida waters either by being released there by aquarium owners or when an outdoor aquarium was broken and they fell into a Florida inlet. However they were released, now they have multiplied to high levels in some areas, and are increasing.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has launched a campaign called “Eat Them to Beat Them,” trying to get lionfish on the menus of restaurants. They want consumers to eat them in restaurants, so populations in the wild can be reduced through simple economic demand from humans. For example, a restaurant in the Turks and Caicos, called Mother’s Pizza is serving a lionfish pizza. There was a lionfish hunt in July there for the public, due to the damage the species is causing to the environment there, “lionfish consume juvenile snapper and grouper along with algae-eating parrotfish, all of which help keep reefs healthy. If unchecked, lionfish will ultimately destroy our reef.”

Because of their sharp, venom-containing spines they are not all that easy to catch. Seaworld.org states they have 18 of them. Typically lionfish are caught by netting or spearing, because they generally don’t bite bait on hooks. The venom in the spines cause severe pain, but not death in humans, perhaps with the exception of an allergic reaction.

Image Credit: Chmehl

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56 comments

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11:33AM PDT on Sep 9, 2010

ver interesting

2:48AM PDT on Aug 16, 2010

That's one scary fish. I don't know if I'd want to eat it!

5:37PM PDT on Aug 11, 2010

Wow.

11:44AM PDT on Aug 9, 2010

I would consider this great abundance a blessing. Feed the hungry and homeless but don't be too greedy.

11:06AM PDT on Aug 9, 2010

I would consider this great abundance a blessing. Feed the hungry and homeless but don't be too greedy.

1:33PM PDT on Aug 8, 2010

This is not a problem fish; humans are making it look like it is just because it's "disrupting our reef ecology". This stance assumes that humans are in POSSESSION of reefs when, in fact, it is NO ONE'S possession. The fish was created and born out of nature along with everything else. Human's have no right to impose death on any other living specie, including this fish, as if we are responsible for the control over the environment.

In fact, it seems to me that this fish is posed as a threat to human dominance and means of "eradicating" them is now being put into place. This is an act/article of specism: to preserve human dominance/control over nature to the threat of this so-called destructive fish. If it was so destructive, nature would have created a way to re-establish an ecological balance as is already the case in micro-ecological systems such as the rainforest...or perhaps the purpose of this fish's existence is beyond our immediate understanding.

There is a force bigger than ourselves and humans are in no place to determine anything. So please, let this fish be.

1:41AM PDT on Aug 8, 2010

I have a 60 gallon aquarium with salt water fish. The one clown was born in captivity. I had a lion fish that an aquarium dealer traded me for another fish, but did not know at the time it was poisonous. It doubled it's size in short order, feeding it silversides. It would eat one twice a day. It got too big and my other fish seemed at fish to not fear it. My blue tang would always grab the fish before the lion fish could get it. It was somewhat of a passive and peaceful lion fish. I had the aquarium to entertain the elderly I cared for and before I knew it was politically incorrect to have salt water fish. My fish are very well cared for and not crowded into a small space. I know have three fish and they all swim and socialize nicely seeming very relaxed and happy, well fed with no predators. Hope this doesn't offend anyone.

11:34PM PDT on Aug 7, 2010

Great article, thank you.

9:05AM PDT on Aug 7, 2010

As long as their venom is not poisonous to humans, I see no reason not to use them for food, particularly given how invasive and destructive they seem to be. I fail to understand why they are so expensive, considering how prolific they are. Manipulation of the market again, perhaps?

2:26PM PDT on Aug 6, 2010

Thanks for the info Jake. I've watched these graceful fish swim a few feet away from my mask during wreck dives, but that was of course in oceans where they actually belonged. I also saw plenty of other fish swimming around the same wrecks. Maybe they had a private arrangment not to eat each other to extinction....:o)

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