Lionfish Ravages The Bahamas, Expands Into The Gulf

Friday 17th, September 2010 / 09:15 Published by

MOBILE — A colorful, spiny, stinging species of predatory fish called the lionfish reportedly has been spotted off the Alabama coast.

The Press-Register reported Thursday that the recent sighting, along with one off the Florida Panhandle coast, are the first confirmed reports of lionfish in the northern Gulf of Mexico.

The fish is native to parts of the Indian and Pacific Oceans but has been found elsewhere, including Atlantic and Caribbean waters, probably thanks to the aquarium trade. Named after its mane-like array of venomous spines, it is not always wanted. Federal officials have said that studies conducted in the Bahamas found that lionfish ate up to 60 percent of the native fish on coral reefs.

The Press-Register said Lawren McCaghren, manager of the Gulf Coast Divers shop in Mobile, last weekend videotaped a small lionfish swimming around an artificial reef off the Alabama coast.

“I looked down, and there it was. It was small, probably about 2 inches in 112 feet of water,” McCaghren said. “I’ve seen lots of them in the Keys, but this was the first one I’ve seen here, and I dive every week.”

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