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HDNet’s ‘Dan Rather Reports’ Investigates the Invasion of the Lionfish and What it Means for the Future of Our Oceans

January 25, 2011

DALLAS, Jan. 25, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — Tonight’s “Dan Rather Reports” presents an investigation into the invasion of lionfish in the Western Atlantic and Caribbean waters and how this spiny fish with a voracious appetite could spell disaster not only for delicate ocean eco-systems but also for the commercial fishing industry.

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With their vibrant zebra stripes and needle sharp spines filled with venom, lionfish, look like something out of a science fiction movie. Averaging only 12 inches long, these menacing newcomers are taking over, eating everything in sight.

“You wouldn’t believe the appetites on these fish. We’ve documented almost 60 different species of Caribbean fish in lionfish stomachs,” said Stephanie Green, a researcher with Simon Fraser University. “So, the impacts of lionfish could be very severe through such a broad an– and gluttonous predation.”

Lionfish are native to the Indo-Pacific, far from the waters off the eastern United States. But their exotic appearance makes them a popular addition to home aquariums here in the U.S. Scientists believe when some lionfish owners didn’t want their pets any more they released them into the ocean – and the fish multiplied at a staggering rate. The estimated millions of lionfish now in these waters can be traced back to less than ten original female fish.

While sporadic lionfish sightings were not unheard of earlier, it wasn’t until the year 2000 that they started showing up in large concentrations off the Florida coast.

By 2004 they infested the Bahamas, and in 2007 most of the Caribbean Islands were overrun. By 2009, lionfish spread throughout the Northern Shores of Central and South America and just last year they hit the Gulf of Mexico. Scientists expect them to eventually make their way as far south as Argentina.

To make removing these pests more difficult, lionfish tend to hide in coral reefs, making them impossible to catch in traps or large nets. Instead, lionfish must be speared one by one.

What is being done to stop this pesky ocean predator? Catch “Dan Rather Reports: One Feisty Fish” premiering on HDNet, TONIGHT, Tuesday, January 25 at 8:00 p.m. ET with an encore at 11:00 p.m. ET.

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