Hungry Hungry Lionfish | What Sam Sees - Lake Harding Association

Hungry Hungry Lionfish | What Sam Sees

Hungry Hungry Lionfish | What Sam Sees

By Micah Moen 0 Comment August 25, 2019

hey it’s me Sam and I’m here at reef headquarters in Key Largo Florida ready to find out about a fish that’s been invading the waters this beautiful but skilled predator will eat anything that comes in its path the lionfish its population is exploding and we’ve got to find out why this is where all the work happens right here [Music] [Music] the lionfish is beautiful with striking features its population is growing here in Florida and all around the US native to the tropical waters of the Indian and Pacific Oceans lionfish were first spotted farawayfromhome in the Atlantic Ocean fifteen years ago it is believed that humans are responsible for the release of these fish from aquariums into the wild these skilled predators big appetite is impacting the health of our oceans I’m here at reef the reef environmental education foundation meeting up with lad Atkins the director of special projects to find out more about this spectacular fish live can you show me around this is one of our offices this is where all the work happens right here very cool so what is everybody doing well how about if I let you come around and meet the staff sure I’m Sam nice to meet you what are you doing I planned I vacations for people all over the world to go and collect fish survey data wow that’s super awesome where are you planning a dive right now the next trip we have is to Curacao and then we are also running on to the Sea of Cortez oh cool where’s carousel in the Caribbean very neat my favorite will for a friend over there oh hi that’s a great office mate what are you doing I manage the summer 2017 lionfish derby series the lionfish Derby is an annual event to promote lionfish education and awareness it’s a one-day competition where teens dive in snorkel to catch as many lionfish as possible prizes are awarded for the biggest smallest and most lionfish cough and you guys just had that yesterday right yeah our last derby for the summer I heard it was a ton of fun yeah it was really fun we had the festival and the derbies and how many lionfish did you catch they got 220 yesterday so over two thousand for the whole summer the team here at reef is doing such great work to educate and inspire the community to care about the conservation and protection of marine populations I have lots of questions about the lionfish so let’s sit down a lad to learn more thanks for having me yeah it’s good to have you here so can you tell me a little bit about what you do here at reef one of my main focuses is addressing non-native species things that don’t belong where they’re being found now okay like the lionfish exactly like lionfish divers first spotted lionfish off the coast of North Carolina in 2002 since then the population is spread to parts of the Atlantic and Caribbean with recent estimates of 200 lionfish per acre they stalk their prey almost anything that moves to attract their attention and that they can fit in their mouths sometimes larger than half their own body size yeah they’re just gonna ask how BIG’s their mouth it’s big and they feed with the suction grouper very much like grouper let’s get up close to their prey make a rapid rush forward and open the mouth at the same time that creates a vacuum that sucks the prey right in they don’t bite it in half they don’t chew it up it just goes down home and how big can lionfish get it well in their native range they get to about a foot but here we are seeing lionfish much larger than that close to 20 inches yes they get much larger here than their native range probably because they don’t have the same pressures they don’t have predators here they don’t have parasites here where they don’t belong in this area it’s kind of a free-for-all and why do they have predators they are very well equipped with venomous finds and if you’re a potential predator that is not something that you want to make a meal out of okay their bodies they have 13 very long very prominent spines across the back but they also have five spines on the bottom to up forward and three back by the tail are all of them venomous luckily lionfish are not aggressive okay but they can be defensive so they tend to stand their ground they’re quite bold because they don’t have predators here so it’s great to be able to swim up and look at a lionfish but you don’t want to reach out and try to grab it or pet it and if you’re a round structure you want to give it a little bit of distance because that’s typically where you’re gonna find lionfish lionfish are one of the top predators in many coral reef habitats in the Atlantic Ocean what do you do to keep their populations low yeah well what we’re finding is that where people are not removing lionfish the populations are just skyrocketing and that’s part of the problem the lionfish Derby is a great example of how reef is educating the public about lionfish and getting them involved so as scuba diver how should we interact with lionfish in the wild this is one of the great things about divers and snorkelers is that they’re able to find lionfish and remove them okay either by hand netting fish and we can help protect our native marine life by removing the lionfish that don’t belong here and we’re allowed to do that it depends on where we are but here in the Florida Keys it’s not only allowed but it’s encouraged only divers with a permit can catch these unwelcome fish probably one of our only saving graces is that lionfish are really good deed okay I mean they’re a delicacy people clamor for lionfish lionfish are venomous but not poisonous to eat once the spines are removed and the meat is prepared many restaurants are adding this tasty delicacy to their menu and efforts to spread awareness about this species the more we study about lionfish the more we learn and the more effective we can be in our removal efforts I had such a great time learning lots about lionfish with Ladd they’re impressive species because they can eat anything that fits into their mouth they’re also invasive because they’re not native to the Atlantic Ocean this majestic predator has found itself far away from home creating major impacts on its new habitat in the wildlife in it so we have to do our job like Ladd and his team to promote awareness and control the lionfish population see you next time on what’s anze’s [Music] you [Music]

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