-Are lionfish poisonous? No. Lionfish are venomous, meaning the spines carry a heat sensitive toxin which causes a painful sting, but they are not poisonous and are a delicious fish to eat.
-How big do lionfish get? Lionfish can reach 18 inches in length (47 centimeters) and about 2 1/2 pounds.
-What do lionfish eat? Lionfish prey includes: fairy basslet, bridled cardinalfish, white grunt, bicolor damselfish, wrasses, striped parrotfish, dusky blenny, Nassau grouper, and yellow tail snapper. Studies looking at crustacean prey suggests that lionfish may also eat the juvenile spiny lobster (Panulirus argus), an important commercial fishery species in Florida, The Bahamas, Bermuda, and the Caribbean. Lionfish can also be cannibalistic.
-Why are the lionfish a problem? Lionfish are an invasive species. They are not native to the Caribbean reef ecosystem and so are not subject to ecological controls, allowing them to spread virtually uncontrolled. They are voracious and indiscriminate predators, meaning they eat almost anything small enough to swallow (and they can swallow things up to two thirds of their own size). Their prey is helpless because they do not recognize lionfish as a threat and they are not used to their way of hunting. As a result lionfish are known to have very bad effects on the local fish populations. This has been verified by a study in the Bahamas which found that the presence of one lionfish on a small patch reef was sufficient to reduce recruitment of young reef fish by 79%.
-What is the best way to take lionfish? Lionfish are best taken by using spears, but they can also be caught in hand-held nets. They are rarely taken on hook and line.
-How often do lionfish reproduce? Females release up to 30,000 eggs per spawn and can spawn 3 times a month.
-Where did the lionfish come from? Lionfish are native to the reefs and rocky crevices of the south Pacific and Indian Oceans. There is considerable debate surrounding the original source of lionfish in the Atlantic, with some claiming that they came from the discharge of ballast tanks in large ships, others that they were aquarium releases, and some that say they washed out of a large aquarium during hurricane Andrew in 1992. However, lionfish were first spotted in 1985 in Florida, and genetic testing has shown that most of the lionfish come from 8 original females, which supports the idea that they were released by private owners who set their aquarium pets free in the ocean.
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