Lionfish are native in the Indo-Pacific region and the Red Sea, but not in the Caribbean. There are few theories how they spread everywhere, one of them is that they were released from home aquariums. The adults grow up to 13 – 16 inches / 33 – 40 cm and it takes them approximately 2 years. However the females are mature when they are about a year old and 7 – 8 inch / 18 – 20 cm long and they can release in warm waters between 10,000 and 30,000 eggs every 4 days, all year around. That means about two million eggs per year! The egg sac contains a chemical deterrent discouraging other fish from eating the eggs, so most of them survive. The lionfish usually don’t travel far, once they establish their territory, they stay there. They mostly hunt at night and eat probably every creature in their territory. Some studies say, they eat over 70 different species. One small lionfish can reduce the number of juveniles in the area by about 79% in just 5 weeks! They do have predators in their natural habitat, like groupers, large eels, frogfish, other scorpion fish and sharks and now, after being in our waters for few years, some groupers, gray triggerfish and large eels started eating them here too. But until the nature creates the balance again, we have to help to manage the invasion.
Did you know, that lionfish can expand their stomach up to 30 times its normal volume and they can eat prey just over 1/2 its own size, as long as they can get their mouth around the prey?
You’ve probably heard that Lionfish have venomous spines, 13 of them are located along the spine in the dorsal fins, one short spine is in each pelvic fin and 3 short spines in the leading edge of the anal fin. The spines can easily penetrate human skin, the sting is very painful because of the venom, which is a protein-based combination of a neuromuscular toxin and a neurotransmitter. In case you get stung, end the dive immediately, surface safely, remove any broken spines, disinfect the wound and apply hot water for 30 to 90 minutes. Seek a doctor immediately and check for any allergic reaction.
The good news is, 20 minutes after a lionfish is killed, the spikes loose the toxicity and they are not poisonous anymore. They are very tasty, if you like eating fish, you will love them! Some restaurants around the world sell them too, but they are quite expensive, so try some lionfish dishes for a much better price at the local restaurants when you come to Bayahibe for scuba vacation.