Posted: Sep 28, 2012 8:07 PM
Updated: Oct 1, 2012 8:35 AM
PORT ISABEL - A dangerous invasive species of fish is showing up for the first time in the waters off the coast of South Texas.
The lionfish is native to Pacific waters and began showing up in the Caribbean in the 1980s.
A remote-operated submersible captured images of the small predator fish at an artificial reef 40 miles southeast of Port Aransas. There were two confirmed sightings of lionfish in South Texas waters in the past week.
"(It's) pretty much an invasion of our reefs by lionfish, because they are piscivorous, which means they eat other fish and they eat other invertebrates or animals without backbones. And they basically will take over a reef," said Tony Risinger, a Cameron County marine agent.
Lionfish grow a mere 18 inches. But with no natural predators, they tend to take over an ecosystem. They are considered venomous, but local shrimpers said they are more worried about another kind of fish known as the firefish.
"The firefish pinches you and you feel like fire all over the place," shrimper Evaristo Medrano said.
The lionfish is commonly found at local pet stores. Petco in Weslaco got their first two lionfish on Friday.
"We're in the process of removing the clown fish that are in here. That's for their safety," said Arlene Cavazos, Petco aquatic specialist.
Biologists are studying how the lionfish might impact food chains that support commercial fishing.
"Long term, there will probably be a stabilization of these fish and they'll become probably part of our ecosystem because we don't have really any controls over these lionfish. If they can adapt to the habitat, we'll end up having lionfish here similar to what we have with the fire ants," said Dr. Rick Kline, University of Texas at Brownsville assistant biology professor.