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Lionfish invade Atlantic waters, researchers call for human intervention

Posted By KATE STANTON, UPI.com   |   July 14, 2013 at 10:12 PM   |   Comments

July 14 (UPI) -- Scientists say that something has to be done about the lionfish, a decorative but venomous fish species native to the Pacific, that has somehow made its way over to the Atlantic and Caribbean oceans.

According to a recent report published in PLOS One, researchers plumbed the depths of the ocean in three areas around the Caribbean with a deep-diving submersible vehicle. Though they already knew that lionfish had come to the Atlantic, they were surprised at the huge numbers of the species that they found 300-feet-deep below the surface of the ocean.

"We expected some populations of lionfish at that depth, but their numbers and size were a surprise. This was kind of an 'Ah hah!' moment," Stephanie Green, an Oregon State University scientist who co-authored the report, said in a statement.

"It was immediately clear that this is a new frontier in the lionfish crisis, and that something is going to have to be done about it. Seeing it up-close really brought home the nature of the problem," she added.

While people have been able to control lionfish populations in shallower waters, it's worrisome to find such large populations so far below the surface.

“There’s some concern that the lionfish might be using a deep-sea refuge,” Green said.

Lionfish were accidentally released into the Atlantic in the 1990s. With few predators to curb their population growth, they have become invasive to the Atlantic's ecological equilibrium.

According to the Christian Science Monitor, recent efforts to tackle the lionfish problem have involved encouraging people to fish for and eat them. The venomous species can be eaten when cooked properly.

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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