Invasive lionfish found in Texas waters

DSCN0901[1]A ferocious and venomous invasive species, lionfish have been spotted offshore of Port Aransas, which could be bad news for anglers as the fish compete with native species.
 
“The consensus is that they seem to be starting to spread westward,” said Dr. Matt Ajemian, post doctoral research associate for the Harte Research Institute. “Their origin is toward Miami. I’m not sure if everyone expected them to spread this far, but we’re certainly starting to see them.
 
“It’s concerning because some studies show these guys are pretty vicious predators and can compete with some of the native species.”
 
The first lionfish was seen about 40 miles southeast of Port Aransas, and a second sighting was about the same distance from Port Aransas, but due east.
 
“Both sightings were in relatively deep water almost 200 feet down,” Ajemian said. “Most divers probably won’t see them or interact with them, and I don’t know how often anglers will get these on a hook. We just don’t know if this is just a small brood that made it over, or whether they’re really setting up camp out here.”
 
Ajemian said anglers who come into contact with the fish need to exercise caution.
 
“The lionfish themselves have a bunch of venomous spines on them, so unless properly handled you run the risk of hurting yourself,” he said. “Most people would like to see you keep the fish if you do catch it because of the potential threat they have to the rest of the reef fish community.“
 
Ajemian said researchers are going to continue to keep an eye out for a reproducing population of the fish, but said there may be a silver lining.
 
“I have a colleague in Bermuda and he says they’re extremely good tasting,” he said. “But obviously it requires a lot of careful preparation.”

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