If you haven’t already heard, the Lionfish is taking over the Atlantic reefs from Bermuda to the Mid-Atlantic, through the Bahamas, Florida Keys, and down the Caribbean all the way to its southernmost parts, including the entire Gulf of Mexio. With no natural predators, this voracious eater of reef fish is propagating at previously unheard of rates. In just a few short years, the Lionfish has gone from rare sightings to invasively plentiful. The deceptively beautiful lionfish is a hazard to our marine ecosystem because they are eating large numbers of native juvenile fish, some have been opened up with 15-20 juveniles inside their stomach at one time. Unlike the Indo-Pacific lionfish which mate seasonally, these Atlantic lionfish are breeding year round, inhabiting a larger portion of the reefs, and are even growing to slightly larger sizes.
Countries like Bermuda, the Bahamas, the Virgin Islands, and the Turks and Caicos are holding Lionfish tournaments in an attempt to reduce their population. It appears that divers are having an impact in keeping the lionfish population at bay. In areas where divers rarely venture, as many as 30 or more lionfish are often spotted in a single dive, while on the routinely hunted areas people are keeping the population to only a few lionfish sighted per dive. We may not be able to eliminate the Lionfish in the Atlantic, but if we can limit the population on our shallow divable reefs than we can give our native juvenile fish a fighting chance at survival. Throughout Florida and the Caribbean, an aggressive campaign to enlighten people to the delicous taste and texture of the Lionfish is underway, and all are encouraged to spear the Lionfish whenever possible. Creating a viable commercial market for Lionfish may be the answer to controlling their population, and to help support that goal we have added a list of delicious Lionfish recipes.
Foldspear is the natural tool of choice for eliminating the invasive Lionfish. Lately there have been a plethora of new devices being cleverly marketed to deal with the lionfish problem, such as the Lionfish buster, ELF (eliminating lion fish), Safespear, Acuspear, Frapper, etc. Despite having cool names they all have the same drawback – You have to carry the darn thing around in your hands the entire time!!! Foldspears were being used to hunt fish long before the Lionfish came to the Atlantic. With it’s holstered design, even people who don’t normally spearfish can do their part in eliminating this venomous nuisance. Photographers can still carry their camera and just pull the Foldspear out when a lionfish is spotted. We now offer the Lionfish Hunter Package which includes a 4 foot Foldspear & Holster and your choice of either a single removeable barb tip or 3 prong tip. We recommend the barbless tip if you just want to kill the lionfish and leave it for the other fish, and we recommend the 3 prong tip if you are collecting them for food. Click here for more on how to hunt and kill the invasive lionfish.
We also have a tutorial on how to clean and fillet a lionfish, which can be seen by clicking here.
-Lionfish can inflict a painful, agonizing sting or stab from any of their 13 dorsal, 3 anal, or 2 pelvic spines. The spines are defensive only and are not used in hunting. The potent venom is contained in venomous glandular tissue that is located in the grooves of the spines. When a spine enters a victim the tissue is torn and the venom diffuses into the wound. The venom includes a protein, a neuromuscular toxin and a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. How people react to the stings depends on the amount of venom in the wound, the immune system of the victim, and the location of the sting.
-The best treatment is to immerse the wound site in hot, non-scalding water (110-113°F) for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the pain subsides. According to Michaels (1998), applying rapid heat using a hair dryer will also work. The key point is heat; lionfish venom contains many heat labile proteins, and heat will denature these venom proteins, preventing them from spreading in the bloodstream and decreasing the severity of their effects. Do not use boiling hot water; the burn resulting from boiling water will often be worse than the lionfish sting.
-A lionfish’s stomach can expand to 30 times its normal size! Lionfish have no known predators in the Atlantic and Caribbean. In lab studies, many native fish starve to death rather than attack a lionfish. In lab studies lionfish have been known to eat up to 8 times their body weight in a year.
-Lionfish reproduce sexually. When females find an area where the male Lion Fish can fertilize their eggs they will lay mucus-encapsulated clusters of 2,000 to 15,000 eggs so they can be fertilized. In the environment around the egg there are bacteria that will break down the mass mucus in the egg to help the hatching process. The egg will take up to 12 hours to be fertilized where it will hatch in around 36 hours. The new born lion fish become fine swimmers around two to three days after they have hatched, where they can then hunt and catch small plankton.