Lionfish are found throughout USVI waters. They concentrate near reef environments and rocky outcrops but have been spotted over coral patches, sandy bottoms, and in mangroves, seagrass, and even canal habitats where they hunt.
Lionfish are tropical marine fish with vibrant coloration. Their bodies are mostly white to cream color marked with contrasting red, orange, and/or brown vertical stripes. Sometimes the stripes merge to form a “V”. Lionfish have 18 total venomous spines; 13 dorsal spines, 3 anal spines, and 1 on each pelvic fin. Adult Lionfish have a maximum length of 15 inches and can weigh around 2.5 pounds. Although, there have been reports of larger individuals at 17 inches long within the introduced range. Lionfish are most active at night when they are hunting and hide in unexposed places during the day.
Lionfish were introduced to the Atlantic by human release most likely enabled through the aquarium trade. Lionfish are a popular species among tropical fish pet owners and enthusiasts. The first observations were recorded off the North Carolina coast in 1985, then in Bermuda in 2001, the Bahamas in 2004 and now they are prolific throughout the Caribbean.
Lionfish reach sexual maturity at around 1 year of age and will reproduce year-round. Female lionfish can release 2 fertilized egg sacks every 4 days, with each sack containing up to 15,000 eggs. That is potentially 30,000 eggs released per spawning event!
Lionfish are indiscriminate predators that will consume any prey that fits in their mouth! In the US Virgin Islands this means juvenile populations of ecologically important species such as the endangered Nassau grouper and parrotfishes, as well as commercially important species such as snapper and tuna. Lionfish may also out-compete these natives for food and habitat.
Lionfish have a voracious appetite, with the ability to reduce populations of juvenile fish, shrimps, crabs, and lobster by up to 90%. This in turn negatively affects the fishery and the local economy. Their hunting techniques are quite effective as well. Lionfish ambush and “corral” their prey with their fan-like pectoral fins.
Lionfish have no natural predators in the Atlantic ocean. Their venomous spines and unique appearance make them unrecognizable as prey, further deterring potential predators.
Because Lionfish reproduce quickly, they can rapidly invade an uncharted area, decimating reef fish and crustacean populations, reducing reef biodiversity and possibly causing the extinction of native species.
HOW TO CATCH
HOW TO CATCH
Lionfish management involves the physical catch and removal of individuals. Managers must wear thick gloves and use the appropriate spear/snare and containment mechanism to prevent injury from Lionfish spines.
Upon landing, spines can be removed by carefully cutting with shears.
What You Can Do!
EAT THE ENEMY
EAT THE ENEMY
Lionfish meat is white, flaky, and delicious. Lionfish fillets have been compared to that of Mahi Mahi and can be prepared similarly. The Division of Fish and Wildlife encourages Virgin Islanders to “eat the enemy” and support commercial fishers who sell Lionfish or local restaurants that offer Lionfish on their menu.
Support the Caribbean Oceanic Restoration (CORE) Foundation by
You can report Lionfish sightings and/or interactions by calling the Division of Fish and Wildlife offices directly at (340) 773-1082. You may also submit an anonymous “tip” to the DPNR hotline. This can be done online through the website DPNR Hotline (vi.gov) or on the go through the downloadable DPNR Hotline App!