Last update: 11-Dec-2013 6:16 am
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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An holistic approach to protecting our oceans
The lionfish invasion is here. We talk about overfishing, climate change, ocean acidification, seismic surveys, shrimp trawling, industrial, agricultural and oil pollution threatening marine eco-systems. However, lionfish may be the single worst immediate threat facing our reefs: these invasive super-predators could wipe out 90 per cent of our native reef fish. Lionfish evolved in the Pacific, but man introduced it to the Atlantic and the Caribbean. Their venomous spines prevent them from being eaten by other fish. Our native reef fish don’t recognise them as predators; anything that the lionfish can fit in to its mouth is prey.
The first local sighting was in February 2012, in Tobago. For months there were no new encounters with this alien fish. But they were multiplying in the depths. Exponentially. A spear fisherman told me that he and his friends caught 45 at Speyside, Tobago. It will get worse: up to 1,250 lionfish have been recorded per acre of reef. The ease with which they catch their abundant, unsuspecting prey has led to them growing a few inches larger than they would in their native waters. Their stomachs can expand to 30 times their normal size. Atlantic lionfish have been eating so much that one researcher declared them obese and suffering from liver disease. These invaders from the East suffer a western lifestyle disease.
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