Invasive Lionfish

I was very curious to talk to someone about lionfish, since I know it is an invasive species in the Atlantic and they are quite overpopulated. Diving the past week and a half, I have been very surprised to not see that many. On day 2, a lionfish was spotted on an artificial reef off the end of a dock. He wasn’t very big. A couple days later Jimmy was snorkeling off the end of Ecologic Divers’ dock before a dive and spotted 2 little lionfish hovering at the bottom. He let a couple of the workers know and they jumped in and speared the fish. It wasn’t until diving out in the Great Blue Hole and the dive sites nearby that I encountered some very large lionfish. A total of three were counted lingering around the reef waiting for prey to swim by and be eaten up. There were many fish at Lighthouse Reef, due to it being a marine reserve, so the lionfish were living like kings, overindulging on the other fish. A final lionfish was discovered on the night dive we did at Hol Chan Marine Reserve yesterday. Wondering why there weren’t many spotted, I decided to talk with a local. I was informed that the reason why I was not finding any lionfish on the dives outside the reef was because they like to hang out within. They choose to do so because that is where all the smaller fish hang out; smaller fish are easier prey. They are also primarily located on the south side of the island, not a place where we have really been diving. The locals try to curb the population by spearing them whenever possible. This is a reason why barracudas tend to swim by your side: they are waiting for their fish handout, like your pet dog follows you for a treat. Nearby restaurants specialize in lionfish cuisine. I have yet to try it, but want to venture out to get some before our departure. Ultimately, the overpopulated lionfish has not yet taken over the reefs along San Pedro. Hopefully predators will catch on from the handouts and start feeding on the lionfish themselves.

Jimmy and a speared lionfish.

Jimmy and a speared lionfish.

Lionfish at lighthouse reef.

Lionfish at lighthouse reef.

Barracuda swimming alongside.

Barracuda swimming alongside.


One thought on “Invasive Lionfish

  1. They are a very real pest (being polite) here in South Florida and there is no closed season on fishing for them here. I would suggest that you contact Reef Relief in Key West at or Andy Newman (a very keen fisherman) who is the publicist for the Florida Keys and he can be found on Face Book at or you at I am sure he can give you a great deal of insight into the lion fish issue!

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