Lionfish invasion

With maroon and white stripes and long, fanlike fins, lionfish are visually stunning. But they are one of the most destructive exotic species. After colonising parts of the Atlantic on the east coast

Published: 12th April 2018 04:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 12th April 2018 01:17 AM   |  A+A-

With maroon and white stripes and long, fanlike fins, lionfish are visually stunning. But they are one of the most destructive exotic species. After colonising parts of the Atlantic on the east coast of the United States and the Caribbean, lionfish are now invading the Mediterranean

Most destructive exotic species
Equipped with harpoons, divers go deep into the crystal clear waters of Konnos Bay in Cyprus on a mission to capture the predatory lionfish. After two dives, about three marine biologists surface with nearly 20 brown-and-white striped specimens

Native to Indian Ocean
Armed with venomous dorsal spines and fan-shaped pectoral fins, the exotic looking lionfish, a favourite at aquariums, has no known enemies in the Mediterranean. The reef fish, whose sting is painful but not deadly, is native to the Indian Ocean. But an outbreak in the Mediterranean has scientists, fishermen and divers so worried that they have launched a campaign to reduce its numbers

Due to the widening of Suez Canal
The lionfish’s “exponential rise” in the area was facilitated by the widening of the Suez Canal—completed in 2014—and warming regional water temperatures, according to Jason Hall-Spencer, a marine biology professor at Britain’s University of Plymouth. The cooler waters of the western Mediterranean, he said, have largely been spared for the moment

Along with habitat loss and overexploitation, invasive species are among the top five leading causes of biodiversity loss across the globe, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature 

They destroyed 65% of Atlantic coral reef fish
Environmental research firm VertigoLab estimates the lionfish invasion in the French West Indies—a string of seven small islands in the Caribbean—has cost “more than $12 million per year”. In two years, lionfish in the western Atlantic have reduced 40 species of coral reef fish by about 65 per cent, according to a 2012 study funded by Canada’s Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council

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