Pollution and overly aggressive agricultural pursuits are some of the leading causes of environmental destruction but sometimes, like in the case of the Lionfish, living species can do a similar amount of damage to an ecosystem.
The Lionfish is strikingly exotic, but don't let its appearance create a false sense of adventure. A native of the Indian and Pacific oceans, they are considered invasive in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico.
Several traits are allowing the Lionfish to take over those areas. To begin with, they eat pretty much everything, including several popular species of local fish which now never live past their first few days. Lionfish also eat juvenile lobsters, squid and even frequently enjoy an octopus for dinner.
Scientists have found a marked decline in such marine life over the past decade.
Even more dangerous to the environment, Lionfish often feast on the small fish that clean coral reefs, which is having a devastating effect on the coral.
The second Lionfish trait that has environmentalists worried is that they are extremely fast breeders a major reason their population continues to grow. They also don't appear to have many natural predators in the Atlantic or Gulf.
What can be done? Several organizations are working to trim the Lionfish population. Reef.org has organized a series of Lionfish Derbies for this summer, where divers and snorkelers compete in a sort of invasive species fishing tournament.
Head to Florida if you want to take part in one of these tournaments. One is scheduled for Fort Lauderdale on July 19. Palm Beach is the site on August 16, with Key Largo hosting a September 13 derby. Each Derby will offer more than $3,500 in cash and prizes.
This is actually the sixth year Reef.org has organized such derbies, with more than 12,000 Lionfish being removed from the ecosystem during the first five years.
Another place to learn all things Lionfish would be World Lionfish Hunters Association website. They offer Lionfish news updates and links to dive centers that welcome Lionfish hunting.
And now the Lionfish fight has gone high tech. In late May the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission launched a Lionfish app that allows fishermen and divers to send Lionfish information for scientific study.
Care To Click supports efforts to keep our reefs vibrant. We encourage our members to take whatever action possible to fight the invasive Lionfish.
We would also like to remind everyone to visit the Care To Click Environment page, where people can donate a free click or print useful coupons. At CareToClick.com, small actions prompt our donations to organizations working to save the environment.