Lecture: Lion-fish: Narrator: Listen to part of a lecture in a marine biology class. Professor: So we've been talking about the future of coral reef ecosystems and um, the dangers they face. Uh, we talked about climate change and the effects of ocean waters, rising temperature on reef health. Overfishing is certainly a problem in some areas. But today I wanna talk about the lion-fish. Lion-fish are about half a meter long. And those spines you see on its back are venomous. Lion-fish were native to the Southern Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean. But about 25 years ago, the first lion-fish was spotted in the Atlantic on the other side of the world. How they got to the Atlantic isn't clear. They are a popular pet fish in home aquariums though, and we know that invasive species are often, well, new species can often invade an area when pet owners let them go. And all it takes is a few individuals to start a population. Anyway. Once in the Atlantic, they spread rapidly, moving down into the Caribbean. They can now be found on most of North America's Atlantic coast and throughout the Caribbean. And there are real danger to coral reef ecosystems there. Now the main reason is their diet. They have a voracious appetite. They eat mostly juvenile reef fish, including economically important fish like snapper and grouper. Not only do lion-fish eat these young fish, but they'll eat shrimp and crustaceans as well, thereby depriving the native reef fish of their usual food. So they're actually in competition with the native fish. Once the population of native reef fish declines, the coral reef health suffers, because native fish eat parasites and help clean the coral of algae. And one estimate I read says that once lion-fish colonize a new area, the population of native fish in the reef can decline by about 80%. Now, another problem with invasive species is that in their new environments, they have no predators. So their populations can grow large and quickly. And that's true of the lion-fish in the Atlantic. But what's odd is that, well, as far as we know, the lion-fish has very few predators in its native environments, such as in the Indian Ocean. So how the lion-fish population is kept in check in the Indian ocean is unknown. Why isn't it increasing there as it is in the Atlantic? The search for lion-fish predators has led some researchers to look to sharks. Divers in Honduras have been feeding sharks lion-fish, trying to get the sharks to develop a taste for the fish so they'll want to hunt them. Now this is something new and I'm not sure it really has that much promise, but it's not the only attempt. Another method for controlling lion-fish populations includes using what are called rapid response teams. There's a marine sanctuary off the coast of Florida that uses employees and volunteers to immediately send a boat and divers to the location. Anytime a lion-fish is sighted in the sanctuary, the fish is removed usually within 24 hours of being sighted. Now, these rapid response teams can work in a small marine park, but throughout the rest of the ocean? Ok. So one other way of dealing with the problem is a program that encourages human consumption of lion-fish. That is, it tries to convince people to eat lion-fish. The spines on the fish's back contain venom, but the fish itself can be eaten and is apparently quite tasty. So it's safe to eat. But there's still some debate as to whether or not consumption should be encouraged. You see, some researchers feel that if the lion-fish ever becomes a valuable food fish, well, people will come to depend on it as a resource. There will be a marketplace for the fish and public demand that its population be kept at a certain level. So you have an invasive species people who want to protect because of its high economic value, which leads to the second reason that some researchers are against eating the fish. And that's fact will actually encourage people to bring more lion-fish to areas where they don't belong. Now, even though concerns researchers raise, I still feel that eating the fish should be promoted. It's unlikely that we can ... sort of ... eat so much of it, that so many fish will disappear over so widen area. But think about it, every time someone chooses to eat lion-fish, that means they're choosing not to eat another native species, a native species whose numbers may be dwindling. And that's a very good thing.