The Lionfish: Threatening Native Fish and Florida's Fishing Industries
Florida is blessed with a world-renowned natural environment, which helps drive a colossal tourism industry, and makes the state a great place to work and play. With this dependence on nature, invasive species can have a significant (and often expensive) impact on Florida’s economy and desirability. Invasive species are plants or animals that are not native to a given area, typically introduced by people; and because they are not native to the area, natural predators are typically absent, allowing invasive species to thrive, consuming native species and reproducing quickly.
The lionfish, native to the Indo-Pacific region, is an invasive species in the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean that devours native fish and competes for food with native predators, and represents a threat to several important industries in Florida, including sport and commercial fishing, and to the health of coral reefs and the biodiversity in our waters. In addition to killing native species, the lionfish also reproduces at a much faster rate than other fish in the region, and is able to adapt to almost any environment, from a 1-foot deep mangrove stand to a more than 1,000-feet deep reef. Two particular species affect Florida and nearby waters: the red lionfish (Pterois volitans) and common lionfish (Pterois miles).
First caught in 1985 in Dania, Florida, the precise reason for its arrival to the Atlantic coast is unknown; however, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and other conservation groups have stated that the most likely cause is individuals dumping these fish and/or their eggs into the wild from their aquariums. The species exponentially grew along the Florida Keys and the Bahamas from 2004 to 2010.