The ocean is a deeper hue of blue off the coast of Florida. Thirty meters (100 feet) down, the water is clear. The colors of the reef are dazzling. Near an orange barrel sponge is a group of fish. They seem to hang motionless. They look like a herd of zebras. But their stripes are reddish‑brown and white.

A diver appears. He aims a speargun at the head of the nearest fish. He pulls the trigger and strikes the fish. None of the other fish move. It’s as if they hadn’t noticed. The diver shoves the dead fish into a pouch. Then he takes aim again.


A Fish Out
of Its Waters

Why would a diver kill a lionfish? Because lionfish are not a part of this environment. They are an invasive species. They hurt the local fish population. They hurt the reef, too.

Lionfish are native to the South Pacific and Indian oceans. There, they live in balance with other creatures. In the Atlantic Ocean, lionfish have no predators, so there is less balance.

Getting a Fin‑hold

So…how did these lionfish get in the Atlantic Ocean? There are some interesting theories: They arrived here trapped in ballast tanks of cargo ships. Or, a breeding pair escaped from an aquarium during Hurricane Andrew.

Most likely, tropical fish owners dumped their lionfish in the sea. This can happen once the fish get too big for their aquariums. The first report of lionfish was in 1985. They were found off the coast of Florida. Since 2000, the population has exploded.