The lionfish, a tropical native of the Indian and Pacific oceans that probably escaped from a Florida fish tank, is showing up everywhere — from the coasts of Cuba and Hispaniola to Little Cayman’s pristine Bloody Bay Wall, one of the region’s prime destinations for divers. Wherever it appears, the adaptable predator corners fish and crustaceans up to half its size with its billowy fins and sucks them down in one violent gulp. Research teams observed one lionfish eating 20 small fish in less than 30 minutes.
“This may very well become the most devastating marine invasion in history,” said Mark Hixon, an
The lionfish so far has been concentrated in the
Researchers believe lionfish were introduced into the Atlantic in 1992, when Hurricane Andrew shattered a private aquarium and six of them spilled into
Containing the spread of the lionfish is an uphill fight. As lionfish colonize more territory in the
Dehart said: “If we start losing these smaller reef fish as food to the lionfish … we could be in a whirlwind for bad things coming to the reef ecosystem.”