Divers equipped with nets and spears now compete in the Florida Keys to see how many invasive lionfish they can kill -- part of an full-on abatement program designed, probably futilely, to curb the spread of this small, poisonous and rapacious predator.
Lionfish eat juvenile snapper, grouper, Spanish hogfish, shrimp, parrotfish, and many other species. When lionfish eat environmentally important animals like parrotfish that eat algae and coral to grow, it has a major impacts the entire reef system.
In the Bahamas, where lionfish are well established, there are reefs with almost nothing on them but lionfish swimming among the coral.
As Bob Holston, the owner of a Key West dive shop puts it:
“Imagine going into Yellowstone and not being able to see any birds, any bears, any deer or whatever — you would just be looking at trees.”