Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Caribbean lionfish on the menu

This Biology News Net article reports on research concerning the invasion of Caribbean coral reefs by Pacific and Indian Ocean lionfish, introduced in the 1990's by aquariums or fish hobbyists in Florida.

I found this picture on the web at Dreamstime, so thank you to them for making it available royalty-free.

Their spines are poisonous, so none of the local predators will touch them, and they use those same fins to shepherd smaller fish into corners in the coral before hoovering them up most efficiently.

Once they arrive, about 80% of the smaller fish disappear, which will have a devastating effect on the coral. With no herbivorous fish to keep algae suppressed, much of the coral could be overwhelmed by weed, which would effectively be the end for it.

So the plan is to eat them, though it sounds like early days yet. Apparently they're easy to catch and taste good, which is promising, and selling them as an environmentally positive food has to be a bonus. If you've ever seen live footage of one swimming, you'll understand why they're easy to catch - those great long spiny fins might be poisonous, but they also create an immense amount of drag to slow the fish down.

This is an encouraging photo! These were caught by a diver with a harpoon. However, we need a lot more divers out there doing this to make a dent in the population.

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