Divers Will Explore Ocean Off North Carolina to Learn More About Venomous Indo-Pacific Lionfish
07-16-2004 11:57 AM
BEAUFORT, N.C. -- Divers will explore the ocean bottom off North Carolina next month to learn more about the Indo-Pacific lionfish, a venomous fish that appears to be growing in numbers.
The scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration plan to look into the fish populations Aug. 2-20 off North Carolina. The fish numbers also are increasing in waters off Florida and Bermuda.
The fish population has grown over the past four years around reefs and is the first Pacific marine fish known to populate Atlantic waters. It is an aquarium fish known for bright coloration and apparently was introduced in Atlantic waters by releases from aquariums, according to NOAA statement.
Paula Whitfield of NOAA's Center for Coastal Fisheries and Habitat Research in Beaufort will lead the expedition, which is sponsored by the NOAA Undersea Research Center at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.
Divers will collect lionfish and study their impact on other fish species.
"These beautiful, but unwelcomed, visitors pose potential risks both to people and to their new marine environment," says Whitfield.
She said that people can suffer painful stings from the fish and that other fish species can be paralyzed when stung by lionfish. Most lionfish have been found in waters more than 100 feet deep.
Lionfish have few predators and feed on small shrimp and large fish, including the young of important commercial fish species such as snapper and grouper, Whitfield said.
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