Beautiful, elegant, vibrant, graceful and unique ….. but we shouldn't be admiring them in the Atlantic. The red lionfish (Pterois volitans) and devil firefish (Pterois miles) are native to the coral reefs of the South Pacific. However, here on the reefs off Aruba they are a venomous invasive species with no natural predators.
The Invasion of LionFish

The LionFish are native to the reefs of the South Pacific and Indian Oceans. In the Caribbean LionFish are classified as an invasive species. There are several theories as to how they were first introduced into the waters off Florida where they originally appeared. The most widely accepted theory is that tropical fish lovers purchase the beautiful and colorful LionFish and add them to their salt water aquarium. The voracious LionFish eat hundreds of dollars of tropical fish in the tank. The fish loving tank owner releases the fish to the wild rather than destroy it and there it is… introduction of an invasive species.

The invasion

Lionfish (Pterois volitans/miles) are a venomous fish native to the tropical reefs and rocky benthos of the southwestern Pacific Ocean, Indian Ocean, and Red Sea. Lionfish are a popular ornamental fish because of their unique coloring and feather-like fins; and they were historically one of the most valuable marine fish imported into the United States for the aquarium trade. Lionfish were first reported off Florida’s Atlantic coast near Dania Beach (Broward County) in 1985. Accidental release from an aquarium is the most probable vector of lionfish introduction to the western Atlantic Ocean.

During the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, lionfish were regularly reported off the southeast Atlantic coast of the U.S., and since then have successfully spread throughout the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. Thermal tolerances are believed to be the primary factor controlling the latitudinal boundaries of the species distribution. Lionfish have been found as far north as Rhode Island and are predicted to continue spreading southward along the coastline of South America.

Reached Aruba around 2009

Why are lionfish a problem for Aruba?

  • Not from Aruba (invasive species)
  • Local predators don’t eat them
  • Damage coral reef systems
  • Bad for traditional fisheries
  • Bad for tourism

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