Watch out for invasive lionfish!

The Lionfish (Pterois volitans) is a rapidly spreading invasive species, and has arrived to sites near Cancun. We must keep this fish from establishing here! It is a voracious eater and will displace native species, and disrupt the fragile balance of the reef ecosystems. Also, it is poisonous!

What can you do to help? If you are in Cancun, you can help by keeping a lookout for this fish, and reporting sightings to the cancun national parks office or to me via this website (leave me a comment or send me an e-mail). In fact, tonight the parks office is presenting to tour guides about the fish and to bring them into the monitoring effort.

You can also help by discouraging people from selling invasive species outside of their native range, and most of all – DO NOT RELEASE PETS INTO THE ENVIRONMENT.  The lionfish was introduced into non-native environments by people releasing their pet fish into the water.  You may think you are setting your pet ‘free’ but in reality, you are setting up a massacre, of native species that get displaced, and of the offspring of your invasive fish as we try to eradicate it from the area to restore the ecosystem.


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  1. Heather, I am pretty sure I saw two of these today (November 2, 2009) while snorkeling at the underwater tanks in front of the Bel Aire Collection Hotel (Cancun) at around 12:30pm. They were floating low (about 2 feet off the bottom) in a gap between two tanks. Please email if you have more questions.

  2. Thank you for letting me know! Have you reported it to anyone else? They were “loose” (i.e. not in the closed tanks)? Did you take any photos?


  3. After careful assessment across the Caribbean, we no longer believe that the lion fish can be stopped as an invasive species. Heather is right to recommend to people to NEVER release pets to the wild. And any initial efforts to remove any reported individuals might slightly delay their introduction to the Cancun/Cozumel area but unfortunately it’s going to happen eventually. Important things to know is that treatment for their horrible stings is by submerging the affected area it hot water to help break down the toxins. Also, Lionfish are delicious to eat if you know how to safely clean them as they are in the grouper family of fish.

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