Although popular in many home Aquariums, lionfish are posing an environmental nightmare in the waters around Bermuda, where the colorful, but poisonous creatures are eating everything in their path. In fact, the lionfish are reportedly devouring so much food that they are actually developing liver disease.
“With no known predators (except humans) they can wipe out 90% of a reef,” exclaimed Graham Maddocks, president and founder of Ocean Support Foundation, which works with the government and research agencies to help reduce the lionfish population in Bermuda. "The lionfish invasion is probably the worst environmental disaster the Atlantic will ever face."
Considering that they produce 30,000 to 40,000 eggs every few days and are sexually mature by 1 year old, the situation is only expected to get worse, as the population is now spreading from throughout the Bahamas up to North Carolina, as well as down into the Amazon, thanks to pet owners in Florida who are now being blamed for releasing the species into non-indigenous waters, although there is some speculation that they were first introduced into the Atlantic Ocean in 1992 when Hurricane Andrew destroyed an aquarium in southern Florida, releasing six lionfish into Biscayne Bay. However, a lionfish was discovered off the coast of Dania Beach, back in 1985.
Irresponsible pet owners from Florida are also the source of the state’s Burmese python invasion, which has been wiping out numerous native animal species including deer, opossums and raccoons, etc (see http://www.examiner.com/article/eco-dogs-used-to-sniff-out-python-menace).
“Believe it or not, DNA evidence traces all lionfish in the Atlantic back to only six to eight female lionfish,” added Ecologist James Morris with the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science.
Note: Lionfish possess venomous fin rays, which can cause can cause extreme pain, nausea, vomiting, fever, breathing difficulties, convulsions, dizziness, redness on the affected area, headache, numbness, paresthesia (pins and needles), heartburn, diarrhea, and sweating to humans stung by them. In rare cases people have also suffered temporary paralysis of the limbs, heart failure and even death. Those at most risk for severe reactions and fatalities are very young children, the elderly, those with a weak immune system or those who are allergic to their venom.