One of the most deadly invasions to hit the East Coast is rocking the boat for Divers and Wildlife Preservers alike. The lionfish of the Southern Seas is coming to a coral reef near you and is attacking these beautiful environments with ferocity. Who is willing to crack the whip and put these pests back in their cage?
It seems these days most people who are concerned with saving the environment have been looking at protecting endangered animals or saving parts of the rainforest. Most recently, the major concern for environmentalists has been in saving coral reefs. These lovely fish hotels have been dealing with more than enough problems from pesky divers, fishing boat bottoms and gargantuan oil spills. But now a bigger problem has set in to the Atlantic Ocean, and its teeth are barred and it is letting out a roar of defiance!
At least, it would if the lionfish could roar under water, or at all for that matter. This surprising new terror of the sea is really starting to become quite a pest as it tears apart coral reefs all along the North American Coastline. The Pterois volitans, or common lionfish, has recently entered these waters from its local venues in the South Pacific and Indian Oceans, and is going on an uninhibited feeding frenzy, since it has no major predators in these parts. The primary diet of the lionfish: young coral growth.
Most of the time, any fishy specimen that is getting to big for it’s britches is usually knocked back down the food chain by something bigger than it, but because the lionfish is an invader, it is unlikely that something will rise, or in this case, swim to the occasion. According to the National Ocean Service, most likely come up the coastline with the currents from the Gulph of Mexico, the lionfish is devastating the already troubled coral reefs in areas like Bermuda and the Florida Keys.
Scuba divers and oceanographers have been doing their part for years now trying to rebuild coral reef systems. From sinking unused and cleaned out vessels to create artificial reefs to building reef nurseries, scientists are doing all they can to protect and maintain these beautiful environments, according to the Barbados Free Press. But dealing with invaders like the lionfish is a much more challenging operation, especially due to their rapid reproduction.
Divers are strongly advised to take caution when diving near reefs and wrecks along the Atlantic coastline. While lionfish are not aggressive towards people, they are a predatory species and will not hesitate to defend themselves. Their venomous spines are used to protect themselves and can be deadly if not treated immediately after being stung. Divers are asked to report any sighting of lionfish to the Coast Guard. Aquarium owners are also asked to be responsible for their pets and not simply release them into the wild, as this may have also been one of the leading causes of this invasion.