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Entries in lionfish (11)


Reef fish, Coral at Risk as Lionfish Dominate South Florida Waters

How much damage are exotic lionfish doing to native species and ecosystems in the Gulf of Mexico? Here’s what says:

Lionfish have no known predators because they do not belong in these waters. There is nothing here to eat them, and nothing to stop them from consuming all of South Florida's reef fish. 

Lionfish were once among the top 10 imported tropical fish for aquariums, but when the lionfish grew too large aquarium owners began dumping the fish into the waters of the Atlantic.  Now they are breeding at a pace so rapid that scientists and volunteers are feverishly trying to fight the invasion.  To do this they are studying and collecting the lionfish, trying to eliminate a species now found in deep as well as shallow waters.  

Dr. Mark A. Hixon, professor of zoology, and a team of graduate and undergraduate students from Oregon State University have demonstrated that a single lionfish can reduce the population of juvenile fish on small coral reefs by 80 percent in just five weeks.  One large lionfish can consume 20 smaller coral reef fish in a 30-minute period.

Lionfish are carnivores that can eat other fish up to two-thirds their own length.

The  loss  of  the herbivorous fish  on  the  reefs  will  set  the  stage  for  seaweed to potentially overwhelm the coral reefs and disrupt the stability of the environment in which they exist. Once established, lionfish will destroy our reefs and throw our entire ecosystem out of balance  leaving  our  coral  reefs  to  die  and seaweed to take over.

Go here to learn more.


Lionfish Threat Grows in Florida Waters

MyFWCmedia photo.

Exotic lionfish are on the increase in Florida waters, and, in response, the state has eliminated the recreational bag limit through August of 2013. It also has removed the need to have a recreational fishing license when using certain types of spears and dip nets.

“With these changes, which are designed to encourage lionfish-control efforts, the only thing that limits your lionfish hunting is your ability to shoot and the size of your cooler,” says Alan Peirce of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

During the past few years, the population has exploded along the southeast coast, including the Keys.

“Today, we are seeing them in places we’ve never seen them before, including the northern areas of the Gulf of Mexico, as their numbers are increasing rapidly,” Peirce continues.

What’s the problem?

Since lionfish are not native to these waters, they have no natural enemies. That means little or no control of their population. And as their numbers grow, they crowd out native species and/or eat them. This hurts recreational fishing and, in turn, the economies that depend on it.

“Now I don’t want to sound like an alarmist, but this is a serious situation that needs our full attention,” Peirce says.

“This is especially true for those who scuba dive and snorkel in Florida. As it turns out, harvesting by spear or dip net is currently our best means of controlling the species and minimizing the negative consequences.

“Pole spears with multipronged ‘paralyzer’ tips have proved to be the safest and most effective tool for harvest. Puncture-resistant harvest bags and buckets with a rigid funnel entrance can also be used to safely transfer the fish from the spear to the container while avoiding contact with their venomous barbs.”

For more information about lionfish in Florida waters, go here. Also, REEF is a good source.


Florida Encourages Harvest of Exotic Lionfish to Protect Fisheries

Florida officials have initiated an aggressive new strategy in hopes of preventing exotic lionfish from decimating fisheries.

A fishing license is not required to harvest the invaders by spear and hand-held nets. The license requirement still is in place for those who fish with hook and line, but lionfish rarely are taken by that method.

"They (divers) are our best possible chance to control them," said John Hunt, director of the Conservation Commission's Fish and Wildlife Research Institute lab in the Florida Keys.

Hunt also acknowledged that the predatory fish from the South Pacific and Indian Ocean never will be eradicated from Florida waters.

Lionfish were first identified on Florida’s east coast in 1985, likely as a result of being released by aquarium hobbyists. Since 2009, however, sightings have become common all along the coast and up into the northern Gulf of Mexico.

Resource managers fear that they will outcompete native fish for food and eliminate organisms that keep reefs healthy.

"We don't have all the evidence yet, but we're concerned," Hunt said.

Read the full story here.


Invasive Species Carnage: So We Won't Forget 

When I started writing about the threat posed by Asian carp years ago, I received an angry letter from a reader. He was 75 years old, he said, and he had seen carp in our waters since he was a child.

In short, he wanted to know why I was trying to scare people about something that “is no big deal.”

What I quickly realized was that he didn’t realize that I was writing about silver and bighead carp, which started spreading through our rivers about 20 years ago. He thought that I was referring to the common carp, which has been around for more than a century.

Now here’s the kicker: The common carp is an introduced exotic species also. But it has become so pervasive in our waterways that most people, including that reader, don’t realize that it’s also an invader.

They don’t know of the damage that it’s done by disrupting ecological balance in our fisheries, notably degrading water quality, crowding out native species, and uprooting beneficial vegetation.

Twenty or 30 years from now, will we also accept the damage done by Asian carp, zebra mussels, and dozens of other invaders as “normal”?

Maybe the following will help us remember:

Lionfish Gobbling Up Native Species

Originally from the Indian and Pacific oceans, lionfish now are spreading throughout the Caribbean, as well as up the Atlantic Coast. Likely they were accidentally introduced into North American waters by the aquarium trade during the 1990s.

Lad Akins of REEF, a marine conservation group says this:

"They are eating almost anything that fits in their mouth. The lionfish can probably consume in excess of half of its own body size. They can take quite large prey.”

And this:

"I'm an optimist but potential impacts of lionfish could result in major shifts in the ecology of our Caribbean and West Atlantic reef barriers. It could result in the extinction of some fish species."

Read more here.


Eagle Deaths Linked to Exotic Plant

Bald eagles are dying because of hydrilla, an exotic plant that can provide good fish habitat, but often becomes so dense that it smothers native aquatic species and prevents boating and outdoor recreation.

Most recently, eight eagles were found dead of avian vacuolar myelinopathy at Lake Thurmond on the Georgia/South Carolina border.  Eleven died there last year.

The disease is caused by an alga that grows on the hydrilla. Small birds consume the alga and, in turn, are eaten by the eagles.

Read more here.


Invasive Pythons Now Targeting Everglades Birds

Even as they decimate native mammals in the Florida Everglades, Burmese pythons also have begun feeding on birds and their eggs.

Researcher Carla Dove says this:

“This finding is significant because it suggests that the Burmese python is not simply a sit-and-wait predator, but rather is opportunistic enough to find the nests of birds.

"Although the sample size is small, these findings suggest that the snakes have the potential to negatively affect the breeding success of birds.”

Read more here.


Exotic Mussels Choke Off Access

Mounds of zebra mussel shells are creating barriers to boating, as well as blocking fish and fresh water flow in Wisconsin’s Lake Winnebago.

One lakefront property owner says this:

"The channels have become where they won't be able to be used in a couple years. I bought my house because it has great access to the lake. If I can't get access, the property's useless."

Read more here.


Chef Encourages Anglers to Bite Back

Chef Philippe Parola encourages anglers to eat Asian carp.

Okay, enough is enough.

Down in Louisiana, fear of flying carp is keeping froggers out of the bayous at night.

On Lake Tunica in northern Mississippi, a woman sustained a broken collarbone when she collided with a barrage of silver carp while tubing.

In reporting on the latter, the Natural Resources Defense Council said:

“Despite somewhat sensational coverage that implied she was attacked, she wasn’t. The fish were doing what comes naturally when startled.

“Her experience is, sadly, not unique. Vast stretches of our waterways are being eliminated from recreational use by the carp’s presence. Folks in places like Peoria, Illinois, have long since abandoned recreational activity on the Illinois River for fear of similar incidents.”

The Carp Czar and the feds aren’t going to solve this problem. Sadly, silver and bighead carp most likely will make their way into the Great Lakes and devastate the sport fishery there because of politics and bureaucratic incompetence.

As with most everything else, the best means of dealing with this expanding invasion is private initiative. Or, as Gary Tilyou, Louisiana Inland Fisheries administrator advises: “When one jumps in your boat, eat it.”

And Tilyou is not the only one in Louisiana recommending that solution, which, admittedly, will require considerable corn meal.

“The Asian carp is not just a Great Lakes problem,” says Chef Philippe Parola. “Our solution is to break down these delicious invasive fish and mass produce precooked boneless fish fillets for U.S. grocery stores and restaurants.

“This solution will immediately and rapidly remove these invasive fish from our waters.”

He adds that commercial harvest of silver and bighead carp will create jobs, boost local economies, “and offer a much cleaner, domestic fish. To date, more than 85 percent of U.S. fish consumption is imported and the majority of these imported fish are contaminated with pollutants or abused with overdoses of sodium for preservation and weight purpose.”

Also a recreational angler, Parola is at the forefront of a movement that seeks to control carp, lionfish, wild hogs, and other invasives by popularizing them as food.  As global commerce and increased mobility have accelerated these invasions in recent years, this campaign seems as likely as any government intervention to take a bite out of the problem.

Especially if anglers and others will give carp a chance. Parola says the taste “is a cross between scallops and crab meat.”

Besides buying “silverfin” at the markets and restaurants when it becomes available, anglers can help in other ways. The most obvious way is to keep carp when they jump in the boat.

But snagging and bowfishing tournaments also can reduce populations and put food on the table. And, the field is wide open for figuring out ways to get these filter feeders to bite on baits.

To find out more about eating invasive carp, check out Chef Parola’s website.

He is quick to advise that the carp should be bled as quickly as possible to improve the taste and he acknowledges that bones are abundant. That’s why he has focused on marketing items such as gumbo, cream bisque, and fish balls and cakes, as opposed to raw fillets.

Lionfish are tasty invaders in our coastal waters.

Also, you can learn about lionfish from Maurice “Mojo” White in the Bahamas. At his Lionfishhunter site, he will tell you how to safely handle and prepare this invader with toxin-tipped fins. In recent years, it has spread throughout the Caribbean and up the East Coast as far as Long Island.

Following are recipes developed by Parola for “silverfin”:

Silverfin fried strips. 4 servings

16 strips of silverfin fish (boneless if possible)

2 eggs

1 cup of Kleinpeter half & half for eggwash

1 cup of Louisiana fish fry seasoned flour

Peckapepper mango sauce for dipping

Preheat fryer at 350. In a bowl, crack 2 eggs, stir well, and then add half & half. Stir well again. Place the strips in eggwash.  Coat each strip with seasoned flour. Fry until done. Serve with mango sauce.


Silverfin cakes. 4 servings

1 pound of silverfin white meat

4 ounces of melted unsalted butter

1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon of lemon juice

1 whole egg

1 ounce of crumbled bread

Seasoning and hot sauce to taste

Poach or steam silverfin meat until fully cooked.  Break it up in pieces to remove bones. Place the meat in a mixing bowl. Add butter, mustard, egg, and lemon juice. Mix well and add crumbled bread. Season to taste. Make small cakes, roll in egg wash and seasoned flour, and then fry.

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

 (A variation of this article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)