Lionfish Invasion

Once just an alluring pet, the ravenous lionfish is now a predatory threat to Atlantic reefs.

Originally from the Indo-Pacific region, lionfish are an invasive, venomous fish that were likely introduced to the Atlantic Ocean when aquarium owners released them into waterways.

They release up to

30,000 eggs

every few days


Live up to

30 years

Their numbers have


dramatically over the

past three decades

Beneficial native fish have been

eaten and replaced by lionfish

Studies have shown that lionfish can reduce native fish populations by 65%
Their prey are grazers and cleaners that ensure the health of the coral

Lionfish can eat up to

30 times

their own stomach volume

Lionfish have few natural predators in the Atlantic humans are taking a shot

Learn how people are trying to reverse this human-made dilemma...

Serving them as gourmet food and hunting them for sport

Building robots to hunt lionfish

Creating art from lionfish fins

You can help by requesting that restaurants and grocery stores carry lionfish. Lionfish sourced from the Atlantic Ocean represent a sustainable market, and their removal protects other fish from harm. Check out this list of restaurants serving lionfish.

Read more about this issue:

How Florida is handling invasive lionfish
How do you stop invasive lionfish? Maybe with a robotic zapper

How do you hunt and cook lionfish?

Photo by BIOS and Ocean Support Foundation

In Bermuda, the environmental group, Groundswell has been organizing spearfishing tournaments for six years. Although spearfishing alone will not eliminate their numbers, the events help raise awareness.

Since lionfish have few predators in the Atlantic Ocean, scientists and divers experimented with hand feeding lionfish to sharks. The experiment failed. Plus, hand feeding is thought to teach sharks to see divers as a source of fish.

Eating invasive species instead of overfished species is one way to curtail the lionfish population. Although lionfish have venomous spines, they can be readily removed before cooking.

Building robots to hunt lionfish

Dr. Gretchen Goodbody-Gringley holds a prototype of what will be the 'zapper' portion of a lionfish-hunting robot in development. Scientists and divers use this prototype to determine how lionfish might react. The design of the robot is unique to hunting lionfish as they are one of the only species that will, in most circumstances, not swim away when near the device.

Photo by BIOS and Ocean Support Foundation

The alternative, sending divers to spearhunt lionfish, is both time consuming and expensive. Plus, average divers are not able to travel in the deep ocean, under 200 feet, where most lionfish live in Bermuda. The more efficient weapon should help drive down the cost of lionfish fillets.

The team behind this robot hope to eventually develop an inexpensive version for enthusiasts. There are even plans to gamify the robots.

Read more about this lionfish zapping robot

Lionfish as art

Environmental and jewelry designer, Tara Cassidy, a native of Bermuda, hadn't heard about the problem in her nation's waters until the first spearfishing tournament, six years ago.

She has since been sourcing lionfish fins, given to her by local spearfishing divers, to create earrings, necklaces, fascinators and ear cuffs for her company, La Garza.

She plans to expand her use of lionfish fins to develop pendant lamps.

What's inside a lionfish?

At the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS), reef ecologist Gretchen Goodbody-Gringley inspects a wild lionfish.

Researchers at BIOS keep track of details about each lionfish, including what species they recently ate.

Lionfish have huge, toothless mouths that enable them to inhale their prey with ease.

In the Atlantic, smaller fish don’t recognize lionfish as a predator, so the lionfish gorge themselves. Many are obese and have fatty liver disease.

This female lionfish was just about to release eggs before she was caught.