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