Native species are disappearing as the invasion of lionfish in the Eastern Mediterranean reaches “plague like proportions” due to global warming and the expansion of the Suez Canal.
Lionfish are a predatory venomous fish that are native to the Red Sea and the Indo-Pacific region, but since the widening and deepening of the Suez Canal in 2015 and warming waters from climate change have arrived in swarms into the Mediterranean.
The brightly stripped fish has venomous wing like fins and spines was first sighted in the Mediterranean in 1991, but since 2015 has steadily multiplied across the region.
Fishermen in the seas of the coast of Lebanon are not best pleased by the new arrival, Reuters reports.
The Lionfish Last Straw for Struggling Fishermen
Hassan Younes has been diving and fishing these waters for three decades, “the sea is not the sea we grew up with,” he said.
As the Lionfish scare away native species like the sea bass, it is becoming increasingly harder to make a living.
“Many times, we go out to sea and come back emptyhanded. We don’t even make enough to cover the price of diesel,” said Younes.
Another fisherman, Atallah Siblini, said that he only started seeing them three years ago but now they are everywhere, with up to 50 of them in one place.
Jina Talj, an Environmentalists in Lebanon say that their country has been especially hit by the invasive species because its marine ecosystem was already depleted by decades of overfishing, pollution and urbanization.
The lionfish spawn every four days, can lay up to 2 million eggs a year, can survive ocean drift and eat everything else including sometimes each other.
“It eats a lot and breeds all year long, so it is very easy for it to disturb the ecological balance,” she said.
But one thing that is not commonly known is that lionfish are very tasty to eat, and if local fishermen could persuade people to eat them then some of their problems would be solved.
One longer term solution would be to build a saltwater lock where the Suez Canal meets the Mediterranean, which would stop species moving from one sea to the other.
Photograph from REUTERS/Ali Hashisho