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The invasive side of Lionfish
The lionfish is a beautiful predatory fish and has become popular in saltwater aquariums. With their long spines and dramatic patterns, these fish are truly a sight to behold.
They have no known predators, aside from humans, in their invasive range. This means that there is nothing out there to keep the population in balance and the species can grow unchecked. In many areas where they have become invasive, lionfish hunting has become popular, not to mention the little buggars are tasty to eat!
The lionfish’s reproductive habits area big reason why they have been able to spread so quickly around the world. Especially in the Caribbean, they reproduce all year round and are sexually mature after just one year. Females can produce 2 egg sacks every 4 days, with each sack containing 15,000 (Fifteen THOUSAND) eggs. The result can be 2 MILLION eggs per female per year.
According to studies in the Pacific, it is the males who initiate courtship. The males display their spines and fins in an attempt to intimidate rivals while attracting potential mates.
Not all lionfish are invasive. What!?
Hawaiian lionfish,nohupinao (dragonfly), are endemic and unique to Hawaii and are split into two species: Pterois sphex (Hawaiian Red Lionfish, also known as the Turkeyfish) and Dendrochirusbarberi (Hawaiian Green Lionfish). About 8 inches long, the Hawaiian Lionfish and 6.5 inches long, the Green Lionfish, eat small crabs or shrimps.
The aquarium trade has collected many of these lionfish, leading to a scarcity of the endemic Hawaii lionfish on our reefs. State organizations are trying to protect these and other endemic reef fish from this collection practice. The Department of Land and Natural Resources is enforcing the ruling that all aquarium collections are banned in Hawaii unless an environmental review process is completed, (as of 2020).
Where can I see a Hawaii Lionfish?
An occasional diver on our classic 2 tank dive can sometimes spot Hawaiian turkeyfish swimming in open water during early mornings. They can be seen at depths ranging from 9 to 400 feet. During the night, they hunt. With their large fins, they corner prey and have a lightning-fast gulp reflex, much like the frogfish. This fish spends most of its time in caves under ledges, often upside down. Because these animals have venomous spines, it is not recommended to reach into underwater crevices or caves as they could be lurking there.
Can I hunt lionfish in Kona?
The invasive lionfish explosion in the Atlantic and Caribbean have some divers thinking the lionfish is invasive to Hawaii and needs to be hunted. But that is far from the truth. We need to protect the beautiful and valuable Hawaiian lionfish.
Do you know how lionfish are introduced into non-native ecosystems? Send us a DM on Facebook and let us know your thoughts!