Why are red lionfish considered such a threat that events to catch as many as possible are held year-round in Florida? Below are five reasons. The lionfish in the video is a female. About every four days, a female releases 15,000 to 30,000 eggs that are then fertilized.

Why are Lionfish a Threat?

  1. Why are lionfish such a threat? These fish are not only venomous but also consume large amounts of native, and important, ocean dwellers such as juvenile snapper and grouper, and shellfish like lobsters and crabs. Each fish has 18 spines that it primarily uses for defense. If you’re stung, it will hurt a lot but most likely won’t kill you.

    Why are lionfish a threat?

    Have you seen this creature? The lionfish is common throughout Florida waters. / Photo by J.D. Vivian

  2. How often do they reproduce? Rapid reproduction is one of the biggest roadblocks to controlling lionfish. About every four days, a female releases 15,000 to 30,000 eggs that are then fertilized by a male. In less than two days, the eggs hatch into small larvae that travel on ocean currents.
  3. Are lionfish adaptable to new environments? Yes, and that’s another problem. The invasion apparently began when some lionfish, used as ornamental aquarium fish, were “released on purpose when people no longer want them as aquarium pets,” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Ocean Service Education’s website (oceanservice.noaa.gov). Lionfish have been seen at depths from 2 feet to 1,000 feet.
  4. What natural predators do lionfish have? Virtually none. The fish love Florida waters because they stay warm year-round. One barrier to its reproduction is colder water, according to NOAA: “from north Florida upward, the waters along the coastline are too cold in the winter for lionfish to survive.” Though some divers have said they’ve seen a shark or a barracuda eating a lionfish, those reports are few. (YouTube has some videos of this.)
  5. How can I help? Participate in lionfish tournaments, such as the Lionfish Safari; and eat more lionfish. The meat is light, mild, flaky — and delicious. Prepare it the way you’d prepare any other fish, including fried; or raw, as in ceviche.And do not handle the fish unless you wear thick gloves and know what you’re doing. If you’re fishing and catch a lionfish, kill it. There are no limits of any kind on lionfish; you can take any size fish, any time of the year, in any quantity.During the Lionfish Safari, 227 members of Pterois volitans were caught. For information on the Fort Pierce City Marina and events there, visit fortpiercecitymarina.org.For more information about lionfish, visit oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/lionfish.html.

If you enjoyed reading Why are Lionfish a Threat?, you might be interested in the annual Trash Fish dinner taking place in Sarasota.