Protecting our oceans

Our Conservation Efforts

Invasive species Lionfish swimming

All about lionfish

Lionfish are a venomous fish in the Scorpionfish family. They are native to the Indo-Pacific region of the oceans. They’re a relatively small fish with 15 venomous spines around their body.

When and how did Lionfish get to the US Virgin Islands?

The first sighting of lionfish in the Atlantic was in Florida in the mid 1980s. It didn’t take long for them to start to spread and have an impact in other areas. The first sighting of a lionfish in St. Croix was 2012.

There are a couple theories as to how they got to this side of the world. I believe there is some truth to both of them. The first theory is that people in Florida had them in their personal saltwater aquariums and they were released to the ocean. The second theory is that they were in the ballast water of barges traveling overseas, survived the journey, and were dumped in Florida waters. From there, they could travel with little hindrance. Lionfish are a very resilient fish and because they can swim to very deep depths, it’s easy for them to swim from island to island and spread to the entirety of the Caribbean.

Since they aren’t native to these oceans, they have no natural predators. Having 15 venomous spines is a strong defense system that definitely helps protect lionfish from the few predators brave enough to try to eat them.

Why are lionfish such a problem?

With any ecosystem, introducing a new species interferes with the natural balance. Lionfish are no exception. Their main food sources are small shrimps and reef fish. Many times they will eat reef fish that haven’t reached sexual maturity, therefore, the reef fish population has decreased significantly by the presence of lionfish.

Lionfish reach sexual maturity at about one year old and can produce 10,000 eggs every THREE days. Their extreme ability to increase in numbers is exactly what scuba divers like myself are trying to counteract.

How you can help

Get a scuba license and train with a professional to learn how to hunt them! They are also an amazing fish to eat. Try to get your local restaurants to start offering lionfish as an option.

Oh, and of course buy some amazing jewelry containing their fins by me! This is a great way to spread the word about this species!

Shop Lionfish jewelry