Why We Hunt Lionfish
In the western Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico the lionfish is a non-native invasive species without natural predators or any natural mechanism for controlling their population. They are the perfect predator with voracious appetites; scientific studies have proven that a lionfish can reduce the numbers of small fish, juveniles and babies, young lobsters, shrimps, etc. by 80% within 5 weeks of establishing its territory. These are the same fish and other marine life that are important for the health and sustainability of the reefs and corals by keeping them clean and productive. The reefs provide shelter to baby fish who grow up and are an important part of the commercial and recreational fisheries upon which many, many people’s livelihoods (and lives) depend, too! Some isolated fishing communities in Latin America would literally starve if their local fish population crashed and the Florida commercial lobster industry is already being decimated.
You can only very RARELY catch a lionfish on a hook and line, you cannot use a net to catch them or trawl for them because of the terrain in which they live, so spearing is really the only viable option for harvesting the fish. Lionfish, however, can stay far outside of the reach of “spearos” because they are found in depths as far down as 600 feet… some say as far down as 900 feet!
Lionfish can now be found along the coast of the United States as far north as Rhode Island and as far south as Brazil and every body of water in between. Honestly, we have NO IDEA just how bad the problem is because there are VAST stretches of coastline in Latin America that are virtually uninhabited and not accessible to divers.
In short, lionfish do not belong in this part of the world, they are eating everything they can their mouths on, spreading faster than a plaque of locusts and, consequently, destroying the ecosystems and reefs in which they live.
So we hunt lionfish. Some of us hunt them for sport, some of us hunt them for food and some of us hunt them to protect our way of life… but we all are doing the very best we can to make a difference in our own way.