A beautiful and intrusive lionfish appears to colonize the Mediterranean waters. The fish was first seen on the coast of Cyprus.
As delicate as they may seem, the colorful lionfish produced the death of coral reefs in the Caribbean.
British researchers from Plymouth University found colonies of lionfish near Cyprus, presumably encouraged by the rising sea temperatures and the widening of the Suez Canal. The marine biologists consider the discovery alarming.
For those who are not convinced of the effects of the invasion, the colorful swimmer is also called “the devil firefish.”
The experts’ advice is to take measures to stop the attack, without waiting for further proofs of its impact on the ecosystem.
The researchers collected 23 specimens from the Mediterranean waters.
The Intrusive Lionfish
Pterois miles, as the lionfish is scientifically known, is a fish living in the Indo-Pacific region. It can grow up to 14 inches long, and it exhibits 11 soft rays in bright shades of red and black. The spines are venomous, and they can cause death to humans.
The fish is mainly nocturnal and feeds off other fish and small crustaceans.
The marine biologists encourage divers and fishermen to capture the fish. They add that the lionfish taste delicious after the venomous fins are removed.
The Devil Firefish Traversed the Suez Canal
Just until recently, the Mediterranean was considered an environment too cold for lionfish. However, the climate change is not theoretical. The sea’s temperatures rise too, and the warmer waters invite species to travel to new locations in search of new habitats.
The lionfish is already regarded as an invasive species in the Caribbean and on the east coast of the United States.
Scientists also mentioned that the Suez Canal that had been recently widened and deepened encouraged salty waters to dilute. The salt in the canal was acting like a barrier and stopped the ocean sea species to travel into the Mediterranean.
The Caribbean Affair
In the Caribbean, the large numbers of lionfish had an adverse effect on the ecosystem. The devil firefish fed off smaller fish that were herbivores and kept the seaweed and the algae under control. As the smaller fish population decreased, the plants took over the place and suffocated the coral reefs.
Experts estimated that the lionfish caused a 65% decline in the native fish populations in the Caribbean, and all just in two years. Moreover, the devil firefish has no natural predators in remote locations such as the Caribbean or the Mediterranean.
The scientists believe that the population can be easily kept under control in the Mediterranean, as it does not seem to be as numerous as it was the one in the Caribbean.
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