For World Lion Day, we're bringing you the lions of the sea: Indo Pacific lionfish. As their name suggests, these fish are native to the Indo Pacific region, and are part of the food web in coral reefs in that area. In recent decades, though, these fish have been found in coral reefs throughout the southeast Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean – including in NOAA Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary, NOAA's Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, and NOAA Monitor National Marine Sanctuary. Experts speculate that people have been dumping unwanted lionfish into the ocean for the last 25 years or more.
In their newfound habitats, lionfish don't have natural predators – plus, they have voracious appetites and reproduce quickly. This may spell trouble for biodiversity in coral reefs. a group of 1,000 lionfish can consume 5 million prey fish in a single year! NOAA and our partners are working to understand and control this invasive species with new traps, lionfish derbies, and more. You can help by asking restaurants near you to serve lionfish, and learn more here.
Photo: Bess Bright