Friday, August 04, 2006


August 3, 2006 — NOAA Ocean Service researchers, in collaboration with the Essential Image Source Foundation, embarked aboard the NOAA research vessel Nancy Foster to further examine the status in the Atlantic Ocean of the invasive Indo-Pacific lionfish. Research will be conducted off the coast of North Carolina from water depths of 115 to 150 feet deep, from Cape Lookout to Cape Fear.
view of lionfish about 40 miles off the North Carolina coast in 140 feet of water taken during the summer of 2001 by Paula Whitfield, of the NOAA Center for Coastal Fisheries and Habitat Research in Beaufort, N.C. Please credit “NOAA.”)

Lionfish, a native of the Indian and Pacific oceans and the minor seas between the two in the general area of Indonesia, have now established a population in the Atlantic Ocean. First discovered off of the coast of North Carolina in 2000, they are believed to have been present off the east coast of Florida since the mid 1990's. Lionfish, popular in the aquarium trade, were most likely introduced through releases by amateur aquarists no longer wishing to keep the fish.

Researchers will conduct surveys to quantify lionfish and native fish populations, including snapper and grouper. In addition, researchers will document native prey fish populations, retrieve long-term water temperature sensors, collect live lionfish for reproduction and life history studies, conduct plankton tows for lionfish larvae and conduct multibeam sonar mapping—topographic mapping of the ocean floor—of potential lionfish habitat, while aboard the R/V Nancy Foster.

"NOAA believes that non-native lionfish populations may continue to increase and have adverse consequences for native communities within the Atlantic," said Paula Whitfield, NOAA fisheries biologist at the NOAA Center for Coastal Fisheries and Habitat Research at Beaufort, N.C. "This research will continue to build on what we have learned in the past three years and is the next step toward understanding the impact of this invasive species."

The lionfish (Pterois volitans) is a popular saltwater aquarium fish and voracious predator of small fish, shrimp and crabs. Lionfish have spines containing a neurotoxin that can cause painful stings to unwary humans and paralyze other fish. Although there have been no known fatalities caused by lionfish stings, persons punctured by one of the sharp spines will immediately feel strong pain and rapid swelling of the affected body area.

For the full article and links, go to the web page in the NOAA Magazine at

See also on our web site

and a previous article about this in 2004 at