Protect Reefs from Invasive Lionfish

Lionfish_Derek_Ramsey

Target: Daniel M. Asch, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Goal: Contain the spread of the invasive lionfish to protect reef ecosystem biodiversity along the East Coast and the Caribbean.

The lionfish has risen to prominence since the 1990s as one of the most aggressive invasive species in the aquatic world. These predators are native to the Indo-Pacific region but are devastatingly effective predators in the West. Environmentalists are greatly concerned by the explosive population growth the lionfish has had, at the expense of other fish species living in the same ecosystem.

The lionfish is an extremely effective and voracious predator, and eats almost any marine creature that will fit in its mouth, even fish and crustaceans two-thirds its own size. They have proven devastating to populations outside of their native habitat, destroying populations of “game fish,” including mahi mahi and tuna, as well as ecologically critical species such as shrimp and fish that keep the reef from being smothered in algae. Not only does a single lionfish eat an incredible amount, but a female is capable of laying 2 million eggs a year. Since their venomous spines prevent them from having any natural predators; effectively there is no limit to the lionfish’s population growth potential in Western reef ecosystems.

Not only are they dangerously effective in obliterating native reef ecosystems, they pose a considerable threat to human life as well. Lionfish venom, which makes them such effective predators and such inedible prey, is usually deadly to young children, and in healthy adults causes chest pain, swelling, difficulty breathing, and low blood pressure.

More research must be done to find a way to safely reduce lionfish populations to a sustainable level in their nonnative habitats before the already-fragile reef ecosystems are damaged irreversibly. Please sign the petition below to encourage more research and greater efforts to protect these delicate ecosystems from this unsustainable invasion.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Director Asch,

The invasion of the lionfish into coastal U.S. and tropical Caribbean waters is regarded as one of the worst instances of man-caused species invasion in recent history. The predatory lionfish are unsustainably effective predators, eating almost anything smaller than them, while their venomous spines mean they have nearly no predators in the West. A single female lionfish is also able to lay up to two million eggs each year; together, this is the perfect storm for the population explosion that is currently underway.

This would devastate any ecosystem, but the lionfish takes root especially well in reef ecosystems, which are already fragile, specialized, and under tremendous pressure from human activities and ocean acidification. Lionfish are estimated to have the ability to decrease reef biodiversity by up to 80 percent if left unchecked. Beyond even that, lionfish venom is usually fatal to young children, the elderly, and the weak, and causes shortness of breath and low blood pressure in even healthy adults.

I am urging you to increase research efforts to contain the spread of this hugely damaging predator to prevent further destruction of the natural reef ecosystems.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Derek Ramsey

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