The beautiful but ravenous lionfish has now been spotted all along the Texas Gulf Coast. Sharpen your hooks and knives!
|eat me if you can!|
TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY NEWSWIRE
Invasive Lionfish May Eat Up Texas Coastline
Attention Texans: the invasive lionfish is near your coastline, he’s hungry, he’s on the prowl and there appears to be no stopping him. A Texas A&M University at Galveston researcher says the best way to control lionfish might be serving the pesky sea creatures as the blue plate special on restaurant menus.
Raven Walker, a doctoral student in marine biology at the Galveston campus, has studied the lionfish for years and knows just how widespread a problem the pretty fish can be.
It’s believed the lionfish were brought into southern waters in the 1980s through accidental or intentional human release, but now they are a big problem in the Caribbean Atlantic Coast and along the Gulf Coast to Texas. Plenty of them have been spotted near the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary located about 100 miles south of Galveston, and where they are seen, there are bound to be more, she notes.
´The female is capable of laying 2 million eggs per year,” says Walker, ´so that gives you some idea of how big a problem we are talking about. They multiply like crazy. The thing about an invasive species like the lionfish is that once it has established itself in an area, it’s almost impossible to control it.”
The fish are beautiful in their shape, with 18 venomous spines that can be seven or eight inches long protruding from their body. They have a gluttonous appetite - especially for other fish - eating anything that can fit into their mouth. It’s believed lionfish go after at least 70 different species of fish, including groupers, snapper, crabs and shrimp and others.
Lionfish have now been found as far north as Rhode Island and the Carolinas, but prefer warmer waters which is why the Gulf Coast and now even South American countries are their primary breeding grounds. They have been found at depths as far as 3,000 feet.
There is no limit on how many lionfish divers or fishermen can catch, but even unlimited access to them has not stopped their numbers from rising dramatically every year, Walker says.
One possible solution: Make them more available to seafood restaurants.
´If we can create consumer demand for them, it might be a way to control their numbers,” explains Walker, who is currently working on an academic paper about controlling lionfish.
“They are already a popular dish in the Caribbean. It’s a simple idea – the more people eat them, the better our chances are of controlling them.
Walker says it’s Must a matter of time before the invasive lionfish becomes a big headache for Texas.
´They tend to follow currents, and the Gulf currents typically bring them our way, and more of them every year, she notes.
´In the next few years, lionfish could be a really big problem for Texas.