Lurking Lionfish

There has been a sudden increase in populations of lionfish throughout the coast of Florida. This poses a major threat, as the lionfish is a venomous creature that blends in with coral and rocks and tends to bury itself among the sandbanks.

Max Larsen, Sports Editor

According to Fox, researchers in Bonita Springs, FL, say that “there are invaders in [their] Gulf waters.” With lionfish being more native to the Pacific Ocean, they have many more predators that are able to keep populations in check. These fish have adapted to move towards the Florida Gulf, where they have found no known predators. Native species have started to flush out of the area because of the threat these lionfish pose. Natives in the area say that “with the lionfish population growing, these might be the only fish we have in this area.”

Lionfish aren’t only considered an invasive species, though. They are served as a delicacy across Florida and other southeastern states. Despite this use for them, consuming a piece of their flesh not correctly prepared or cooked properly could lead to serious illnesses and pain. This raises a problem for Florida, because even though lionfish can bring in huge income and are increasing their species population, they are painful. A lionfish sting will take weeks for the effect to wear off, and that’s with proper care and treatment. Soaking the affected area in hot water, medical procedures, pain medication, antivenom, and bloodstream disinfectant are all things that must be done to control a sting from a lionfish. Adding to their danger, these fish aren’t as big as you may think. According to Smithsonian, these fish grow to a max size of 18 inches, and are relatively quick swimmers. Being small, these fish will not catch the average eye, especially with their camouflage.

Divers have started to take action and explore the coast with spears. The goal is to hunt off these invasive fish. In fact, these fish have become so hated in Florida that hunting them has been classified as its own sport. The Lionfish World Championship is where hundreds of divers set out to kill as many lionfish as possible. The championship has been held multiple times across Florida. The most recent tournament was held in 2016, where more than 8,000 lionfish were brought in during a single weekend, according to Smithsonian.