Lionfish Begin Invasion of Biscayne National Park and Are Eating All Our Delicious Fish

A few weeks ago, I was unchained from my laptop and briefly allowed to return to the wild for a few weeks. I headed to the Bahamas for a snorkeling trip. 

Numerous signs posted throughout the marina on the island we stayed advertised a lionfish hunt. Apparently, the beautiful but venomous fish, native to the Pacific, had infested the local reefs and were busy seriously messing up the ecosystem's delicate balance. They have no natural predators and do nothing but eat other fish all day. Worst of all, their preferred prey are small snapper and grouper, which, as you probably now, are nature's most delicious fish. 

Local divers seem to believe the infestation began when nine lionfish escaped from an aquarium in Miami and made their way to the Bahamas. Which was funny, I thought, because I hadn't heard about any lionfish infestation in Miami waters. 

Well, they're here now.  

The lionfish have been found in the Florida Keys and other parts of South Florida waters. Save for a single fish found and removed last year, none had been found in the waters of Biscayne National Park. 

That was until two weeks ago. Since then, more than 40 of the annoying critters have been spotted in the park, according to CBS4

Most of the fish discovered recently are fairly small in size, between 2 and 5 inches. Biologists believe this is an indication that the invasion is in its early stages, with young fish being swept in with currents from the south, where populations are more established.

"It is unlikely that we will be able to completely eliminate lionfish from Biscayne National Park," Dr. Vanessa McDonough, the park's Fishery and Wildlife Biologist, told CBS4. "We do hope, though, that we can keep on top of this invasion and circumvent the issues associated with other South Florida exotic species invasions like pythons and iguanas."

Much like the Bahamas' solution to the lionfish invasion (mass organized civilian hunts), park officials are asking divers who use the park to help mitigate the invasion. They are asked to report sightings, and if possible, capture the fish. 

However, the distinctive mane of spines, which inspired the lion name, can be poisonous to people, causing pain, headaches, vomiting, and breathing problems. But a sting from a lionfish is not fatal to humans. 

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Kyle Munzenrieder