A study has found that within a short period after the introduction of Indo-pacific lionfish into an area, the survival of other reef fishes is lowered by about 80 percent.
Apart from the death of local fish, the loss of herbivorous fish allows seaweeds to grow over the coral reefs and disrupt the delicate ecological balance of reefs,
It is believed that the first lionfish were introduced into marine waters off Florida in the early 1990s from local aquariums or home aquariums. They have since spread across much of the Caribbean Sea and north along the United States coast as far as Rhode Island. This invasive species, which is native to the tropical Pacific and Indian Ocean and has few natural enemies to control it in the Atlantic Ocean, is undergoing a population explosion.
In studies on controlled areas, scientists found that lionfish reduced young juvenile fish populations, including cardinalfish, parrotfish and damselfish, by 79 percent in only a five-week period. One large lionfish was observed catching and eating 20 small fish in just 30-minutes.
Lionfish can eat other fish up to two-thirds of their own length, while they are protected from predators by long, poisonous spines. Groupers, which eat lionfish in the Pacific Ocean, have been heavily overfished in the tropical Western Atlantic Ocean.