Molly Michelson of the California Academy of Sciences just released an excellent article breaking down the good, the bad, and the ugly truths about the lionfish invasion. Below is an excerpt from the article — I highly encourage you to read the entire thing here.
Recent submersible dives deep off the coast of Fort Lauderdale, Florida reveal that these invasive lionfish populations aren’t just spreading southward—they’re also heading to great depths, out of the reach of their only predators, human hunters.
“We expected some populations of lionfish at that depth [300 feet], but their numbers and size were a surprise,” says Stephanie Green, of Oregon State University, who participated in the dives.
The lionfish are growing to an unusually large size—as much as 16 inches. “A lionfish will eat almost any fish smaller than it is,” Green says. “Regarding the large fish we observed in the submersible dives, a real concern is that they could migrate to shallower depths as well and eat many of the fish there. And the control measures we’re using at shallower depths—catch them and let people eat them—are not as practical at great depth.”
Rocha confirms this. “Even if control efforts are successful in shallow water, we can’t reach these deep fish.” And the lionfish at great depths can easily move to shallower areas. In addition, “these larger fish produce more eggs,” Rocha says, creating even larger populations.
(Rocha is hoping to join on subsequent dives. He was invited on this recent submersible dive, but was attending a conference on Indo-Pacific fish in Japan at the time. A video of the dives is available here.)”