Lionfish are native to the Indo-Pacific but are now established along the southeast coast of the U.S., the Caribbean, and in parts of the Gulf of Mexico.
How did the fish get to the Atlantic? While the exact cause is unknown, humans likely provided a helping hand. Experts speculate that people have been dumping unwanted lionfish from home aquariums into the Atlantic Ocean for up to 25 years.
Since lionfish are not native to Atlantic waters, they have very few predators. They are carnivores that feed on small crustaceans and fish, including the young of important commercial fish species such as snapper and grouper.
Unfortunately, NOAA researchers have concluded that invasive lionfish populations will continue to grow and cannot be eliminated using conventional methods. Marine invaders are nearly impossible to eradicate once established.
The invasive pest likes to hide inside a reef wall or patches. They don’t want to be seen, so usually, you’ll find them upside down, hiding in dark areas. They are patrolling for a meal at night so that you can find them out on the edge of the reef.