Thursday, July 29, 2010

Nonnative Lionfish Found in Indian River Lagoon South of Fort Pierce Inlet

Picture courtesy of USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species program
The Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce put out a press release on Tuesday stating that they recently collected nonnative lionfish south of the Fort Pierce Inlet in the Indian River Lagoon. Following is the press release:

Researchers at the Smithsonian Marine Station (SMS) in Fort Pierce recently collected four nonnative lionfish south of the Fort Pierce Inlet in the Indian River Lagoon. SMS Research Assistant Sherry Reed and Drs. Mark and Diane Littler of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History were collecting algae samples in approximately 3 feet of water when they came across a single juvenile red lionfish, Pterois volitans. The specimen was located on the seawall west of Fort Pierce Utilities Authority’s Water Reclamation Facility on South Hutchinson Island. Reed did not have equipment appropriate for the capture of the specimen, so reported the sighting to staff at the Smithsonian Marine Ecosystems Exhibit (SMEE). SMEE staff promptly returned to the location and captured the lionfish, which is approximately 9 cm in length. The specimen is currently on public display at the Ecosystems Exhibit as part of a temporary exhibit on invasive species. SMEE staff returned to the location two days later and captured three additional juvenile red lionfish, ranging in length from 10-12 cm, in approximately 7 feet of water. All three specimens were euthanized and sent to the U.S. Geological Survey’s Nonindigenous Aquatic Species (NAS) program for DNA analysis. 

Lionfish are a nonnative, venomous fish of the scorpionfish family. Their native range is in the western Pacific but is now distributed in waters from Florida to Cape Hatteras, NC. It is thought that they were introduced into our waters through the aquarium trade. They inhabit reefs from about 10 to 175 meters (32 to 574 feet) in depth. Lionfish prey on many species of fish and are voracious eaters. Research has found that they lower the recruitment (i.e, accumulation of new juvenile fishes via settlement of larvae) of new fish species on a coral reef by 79% meaning that less fish are ultimately found on reefs. They also compete with other native species for food. For more information on lionfish, visit the NAS website at To report a sighting of a lionfish visit or call 1-800-STOP-ANS. Location information such as latitude/longitude, depth and type of habitat is encouraged when reporting a sighting.