Invasive lionfish captured in Virgin Islands

Planning a vacation to the U.S. Virgin Islands soon? You may catch a glimpse of an invasive lionfish, and perhaps catch one with the encouragement of scientists who want to eradicate the fish from the area.

A lionfish was spotted in July near the islands and subsequently caught by a team of NOAA divers. The fish pose a huge threat to coral reef ecosystems in the area, as the native fish populations are defenseless against the predators. Once established, the lionfish are very difficult to control.

Lionfish were first observed in the Virgin Islands in 2008 and have been spotted as far north as the coast of North Carolina, but have failed to establish themselves in northern locations. Farther south, however, off the coast of Belize and many of the Caribbean islands, these fish have become pervasive pests that threaten to wipe out entire reef ecosystems.

NOAA scientists hope that a massive fishing campaign with the slogan "Eat Lionfish" will help stop the spread of the species.

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