Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Caribbean Lionfish Invasion

In 1992, Hurricane Andrew destroyed an aquarium tank in Florida releasing 5 or 6 lionfish into the Atlantic. NPR had a frightening story a little while back about the fish invading much of the warmer waters of the Atlantic and eastern Caribbean. The fish is a voracious predator without many threats in this part of the globe. Estimates are that the lionfish may have eaten 75% of the other reef inhabitants in some areas.

Today, I was speaking to a man from Belize who still returns there yearly to dive. He said that many of the reef fish are now gone and that there were clouds of lionfish schooling above the reefs. He also told of 75F water temperatures that are killing and bleaching the coral white.

The lionfish is a native of the southwestern Pacific. It is unclear what checks their population at home, but it is sorely needed in the east before the Caribbean is a watery desert.

NOAA has more information here and here.

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