I knew that lionfish (Pterois volitans) were voracious predators but not like this “And like lions, they are ferocious predators. Last year, Hixon co-authored a study with Mark Albins that showed a lionfish can kill three-quarters of a reef’s fish population in just five weeks.”
Carin and I have been watching this for a few years with great concern and saw it firsthand a few Thanksgiving’s ago when we were in the Bahamas and went down to the Exumas. It’s amazing to see how fast they have spread and how successful they have been. In general, the individuals I saw in the Bahamas were all very large compared to the average size in the Pacific. I noticed that but it didn’t register at the time. That means that they are eating well and as the author suggests, spending less of their energy on parasites, etc. That also means that their fecundity must be high.
But here’s what I think most people are missing …. The author talks about killing a number on the reef and then coming back a finding just one. But he doesn’t say that he killed it. And that’s the problem. I think a number of dive operations are remiss in killing them because they are cool fish (at least in the Pacific). For instance, we photographers love them. So a few times per year, these “lionfish” charters go out and they kill a bunch of them and remove their gonads to do DNA testing and that kind of stuff while the populations across the Caribbean and eastern seaboard are growing and spreading. The scientific community is still trying to figure out what to do and nobody has a comprehensive response. And what needs to happen is simple and I believe could be effective and that’s a “If you see it, you shoot it policy.” It worked on 60 million bison; I believe it would work here. The human race has proven that we are very effective at extincting a species when we put our minds to it and that’s what needs to happen. We just don’t have that mindset yet. We don’t need scientific procedures or special equipment; shoot them with a speargun, put them in a game bag, put them in a trashcan on the boat and dump the fish on the next island you come to and let them decompose. Done. It’s really that simple.
Meanwhile, I fear for our reefs. Since records have been kept over the past 100+ years and a definitive cause can be identified, more species extinctions worldwide have been caused by the introduction of non-native species than by habitat loss. And that’s big.