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Lionfish culling in Florida. Photo: Alex Mustard/Naturepl.com
Lionfish are native to the Indo-Pacific, but due to the pet trade have invaded native habitats along the east coast of the U.S., the Caribbean, parts of the Gulf of Mexico and even on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean: the Mediterranean Sea. The island nation of Cyprus has begun a concerted private-public effort to cull lionfish populations that they’re witnessing in plague proportions destroying local ecosystems.
Lionfish Destroy Everything In Their Path: Lionfish don’t have natural predators and according to NOAA they can outcompete other ocean species, cause extinctions and alter habitats. The Guardian reported that as their numbers proliferate, so have fears that the fish pose the biggest ecological setback to ecosystems in the Mediterranean – which is already under pressure from pollution, tourism and over-exploitation. In the EU, Cyprus has become “the first line of defense” against the lionfish invasion.
Scientists helping to coordinate the effort in Cyprus are hopeful that the culling partnerships with the public can help substantially reduce the number of lionfish, as similar efforts have been successful in the Caribbean. Culls are expected to take place twice a month for two years and local fishermen have been encouraged to get involved.
Periklis Kleitou, a research fellow at the University of Plymouth, told The Guardian that “[lionfish] eat everything. Culling this invasive species is the only effective way to reduce their numbers and ensure marine-protected areas continue to regenerate.”
Why This Matters: As Professor Jason Hall-Spencer of the University of Plymouth explained, “Lionfish are the most damaging invasive fish we have ever seen. If action isn’t taken there will be lasting environmental and economic damage.” Lionfish are truly an unprecedented threat and pose a significant risk to marine biodiversity and local fisheries. Hopefully, the effort in Cyprus can slow their spread (which is being made worse by warming ocean waters) throughout the rest of the Mediterranean and create a replicable culling program for other places where the fish have been spotted like Turkey.
The Good News? Apparently as a firm, white flesh fish, lionfish are very tasty. Government officials in Cyrpus are hoping to create a market for culled lionfish to be eaten.
By Will Gartshore, Director of Government Affairs and Advocacy, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” It’s an old aphorism that still rings painfully true today. Long before Covid-19, the three deadliest pandemics in human history—the bubonic plague, Spanish influenza and HIV/AIDS—claimed more lives than all the […]
We know the permafrost in the Arctic is melting fast, but a new study finds that one of the reasons for its rapid decline may be that beavers are actually damming it up — literally. CNN reports that using satellite images scientists have observed that beavers are building dams way farther north than previously observed. […]
Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, animals have enjoyed the freedom of a quieter world by venturing further into cities and suburbs. While this “anthropause” has made for thrilling YouTube videos, scientists have taken the opportunity to study the effects of human activity across geographic regions, ecosystems, their effect on species. Researchers have been tracking animal movements […]
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