Lionfish is on its way!


WILLEMSTAD — It only seems a matter of time before the lionfish will also be observed in the sea around Curaçao. The spectacular looking exotic reeve fish forms a potential danger for the existing marine life on the coral reeves. The government will issue a warning.



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The alert follows the recent catch of a lionfish (Pterois volitans) on Aruba. The fish with the poisonous quills hardly has any natural enemies here and reproduces itself like lightening. Originally, the lionfish lives in the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean up to the Red Sea as a western border. Their remains were found in the stomachs of groupers on the Bahamas where the fish is meanwhile frequently observed. Nonetheless, large groupers are nearly extinct due to over fishing, also on the Leeward Islands.

The lionfish could become 40 centimeters long and weigh up to 2.5 pounds. The many quills contain poison and could cause serious pain and even confusion and stupefaction. As most predators, the lionfish is especially active around the morning and afternoon twilight. The lionfish is viewed as one of the most popular and therefore, also expensive aquarium fishes. That’s probably how the fish ended up in the Caribbean region. Because of hurricane Andrew in the nineties, fish from sea aquaria ended up in sea and were able to survive.

Apart from the poison, the fishing method for this fish is unknown in the Caribbean region. The lionfish, which daily eats 40 percent of his body weight, spreads its quills and forces its prey in a corner. The predator then eats the prey whole. The fear exists that the lionfish would seriously affect the existence of snappers and grunts within a very short time.

By nature, the fish is found from southern Japan up to Micronesia, Polynesia, and Australia. It is also common in the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea. The spreading to this side of the world dates from the beginning of the nineties. The fish had already been observed in 1993 at Rhode Island, in the northeast of the United States. They were seen in the Bahamas five years ago, and afterwards in Cuba (2007), the Dominican Republic, the Columbian San Andres-archipelago, and around Aruba last month.

The lionfish is very edible and in spite of the poison quite simple to prepare. The poison is in the quills and not in the fish’s body. Moreover, heating-up will neutralize the poison to a normal protein. There are programs on the Bahamas encouraging the anglers to catch the lionfish. The Nassau Guardian: "It is actually a very tasty fish."