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A team of Biscayne National Park divers successfully captured the first confirmed exotic Indo-Pacific lionfish sited in park waters in recent years. This invasive species of fish, likened to underwater locusts and considered a serious threat to Florida's marine life, was captured on a wreck at the park’s northeastern boundary on June 20. The spread of lionfish (Pterois volitans and Pterois miles) in Atlantic waters has received national and international attention. Lionfish have been reported from and/or have become established in waters throughout the Caribbean, Bermuda and U.S. Eastern seaboard, as far north as Rhode Island. Once introduced lionfish can rapidly become an established species that poses potential problems for both the environment and humans.
· They are voracious predators that appear to compete for food resources of already depleted, commercially and ecologically important fisheries.
· They have few natural predators in the Atlantic Ocean and studies show that Atlantic predators avoid lionfish.
· Introduced lionfish are not timid and readily approach divers and snorkelers.
· Their venomous spines can sting and cause intense pain, swelling, headache, nausea, paralysis and convulsions.
The first documented Atlantic sightings came days after Hurricane Andrew in 1992, when six of the popular aquarium imports were spotted in Biscayne Bay and later traced to a destroyed tank at a Miami waterfront home. Whether those were the source of today's population boom is not clear. The park will send the captured specimen it to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's lab in Miami to study its stomach contents and trace its genetic lineage.
Lionfish sightings should be reported to Resource Managers at Biscayne National Park via email or by calling 786-335-3649. More information and photos of the fish can be found on Biscayne National Park's website at http://www.nps.gov/bisc/naturescience/exotic-lionfish.htm