Venomous Lionfish Go On Exhibit at the Texas State Aquarium

January 7, 2019

CORPUS CHRISTI, TX – Lionfish may look beautiful, but their effect on marine ecosystems can be downright ugly. That’s the message the Texas State Aquarium hopes to share with the introduction of 85 of the venomous and invasive lionfish species to its Blue Hole exhibit.

The lionfish will share the Blue Hole exhibit with tarpon, palometa, French grunts, and other fish that reside in Blue Hole, and can be viewed from just inches away from the exhibit’s immersive viewing windows. Despite the lionfish’s reputation as a voracious predator, its fellow fish are large enough that there’s very little risk of them becoming a lionfish meal. The lionfish will also be well-fed, dining on a variety of krill, clam, fish, and shrimp five times every week. Each lionfish carries venom in its dorsal spines, but these too pose little danger to the aquatic residents of Blue Hole. As a precaution, divers who enter Blue Hole will wear protective gloves and keep their distance.

The Texas State Aquarium’s lionfish collection were all discovered in Florida’s coastal waters. Lionfish are native to the South Pacific and Indian Oceans, but because since they are commonly shipped overseas for home aquariums and are subsequently released into the ocean, the lionfish can now be found in almost any marine environment worldwide, including the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea. There, they’ve decimated native fish populations, reducing them by nearly 70 percent in some areas. The lionfish is far from a picky eater, preying on more than 50 species of fish, and because of its venomous spines, it has few natural predators to control its own population.

Through the live display of lionfish and through educational signage, the Aquarium hopes to communicate the dire threat of invasive lionfish and what can be done to counter it.

One possible solution? Eating them. When properly prepared, the lionfish can be a delicious dish, and many conservationists are hopeful that humans developing a taste for lionfish could support an industry which drives down lionfish numbers in their non-native environments.

Guests can see these lionfish for themselves during the Aquarium’s daily hours of 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. All exhibits and wildlife presentations, plus parking are included with admission. To purchase tickets to the Aquarium in advance and save $5, visit www.texasstateaquarium.org.

To learn more about sustainable seafood and how your menu order and grocery list contributes to a healthy marine ecosystem, join the Aquarium at Seafood Wars: Winter Delights on Tuesday, January 15. Three chefs will compete to cook up the tastiest sustainable dish of red snapper, and you will help vote for the winner!

Pictures of Lionfish

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