Thursday, March 17, 2011

Invasive lionfish now found from Bahamas to New England

Environment News Service: The rapid spread of invasive lionfish along the U.S. eastern seaboard, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean is the first documented case of a non-native marine fish establishing a self-sustaining population in the region, a U.S. Geological Survey marine expert said today. "Nothing like this has been seen before in these waters," said Dr. Pam Schofield, a biologist with the USGS Southeast Ecological Science Center in Gainsville.

More than 30 species of non-native marine fishes have been sighted off the coast of Florida alone, but until now none of these have demonstrated the ability to survive, reproduce, and spread successfully. "We've observed sightings of numerous non-native species, but the extent and speed with which lionfish have spread has been unprecedented," Schofield said. "Lionfishes pretty much blanketed the Caribbean in three short years."

Indo-pacific red lionfish, Pterois volitans, originally came from the Indo-West Pacific Ocean. They were first reported off Florida's Atlantic coast in the mid-1980s, but did not become numerous in the region until 2000. Since then, lionfishes have been documented along the entire U.S. east coast from Florida to Massachusetts, east to Bermuda and south throughout the Bahamas and in other Caribbean nations such as Turks and Caicos and Cuba.

…"This invasion may constitute a harbinger of the emerging threat of non-native marine fishes to coastal systems," Schofield said....

Lionfish, or Pterois volitans, shot by Albert Kok, who has released the image into the public domain

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