Dominique Lazarre – Fellow

What should you be scared of in the ocean?

When people think of scary things in the ocean, sharks are usually the first animal that comes to mind. What if I told you there is a fish that is much scarier, the lionfish. These fish may be too small to eat a person, but they could have a big impact on the resources that humans get from the ocean.

Two types of lionfish have invaded the Western Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, quickly spreading along the coastlines and islands. Lionfish have big appetites, eating anything that can fit into their mouths.

So you’re probably wondering, why should we care? All fish have to eat something, right? The difference between lionfish and our native reef fish species is that lionfish don’t have anything that is preying upon them. Their numbers continue to grow, allowing them to eat more juvenile fish along the way. This should make us nervous. Our native fish populations are already depleted from overfishing, pollution and other negative human practices; lionfish are making it even tougher for our native fish to survive. We want to see our native fish on the reef when we snorkel and dive, we want the ecosystem to be healthy, and we want to have enough native fish for people to catch for food.

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