An invasive species not endemic to the Caribbean seas istearing through the native Caribbean fish population like an all-you-can eat buffet.This species is a red lionfish, atropical native of the Indian and Pacific oceans that is said to have been let into the water from aFlorida fish tank. It is reported to appear from the coasts of Cuba and Hispaniola toLittle Cayman’s pristine Bloody Bay Wall, one of the region’s primedestinations for divers. A new study hasfound that this species of fish is reducing the juvenile reef fish populations in the region byup to 80%.
Some spots in the Bahamian archipelago between New Providenceand the Berry Islands are reporting a tenfold increase in lionfish just duringthe last year. Researchers believelionfish were introduced into the Atlantic in 1992, when Hurricane Andrewshattered a private aquarium and six of them spilled into Miami’s Biscayne Bay,according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Biologists believe that the fish released floating sacs of eggs thatrode the Gulf Stream north along the U.S. coast, leading to colonization ofdeep reefs off North Carolina and Bermuda. Lionfish have even been spotted asfar north as Rhode Island in summer months, NOAA said.
They are not aggressive toward humans, andtheir sting is not fatal. There are no estimates so far of tourists who havebeen stung. But marine officials say swimmers will be more at risk as thevenomous species overtakes tropical waters along popular Caribbean beaches.