Invasive Species Found in Gulf Coast Waters
SOUTH PADRE ISLAND – A state agency is urging people to keep an eye out for an invasive species of fish in the Gulf of Mexico.
The Lionfish, a predator, is not native to Texas’ Gulf coast and in some cases can cause harm to swimmers and fishermen.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is urging anyone to report any activity of Lionfish. Diving instructor Michael Reams said it’s a fish he knows all too well.
“We have spear poles for the divers. We encourage them to report any sightings that they see, and if they are comfortable with utilizing a spear pole to harvest the Lionfish for themselves,” he said.
Reams said he encounters the fish many times while out in the waters.
“There’s not a whole lot of them here, but they are here,” he said. “There’s just no natural predator, so if we’re not maintaining the number then nothing probably will.”
The predator isn’t the friendliest of fish in the ocean. Texas Parks and Wildlife natural resource specialist Jason Ferguson said it’s known for eating anything it can get its mouth on.
“It is concerning because they are predators, they reproduce very quickly and there’s nothing that really preys on them other than potentially a few species of Grouper,” he said. “So, they have the potential to really increase in population if left unchecked.”
After hearing reports of an increase in sighting near Galveston, TPWD began efforts to monitor it.
“We’ve received few reports of them, but I think a lot of that is because they go unreported,” Ferguson said. “So, we encourage the public to do if they do encounter one or if they do see one.”
The Lionfish is a type of reef fish. They like to hang out around hard structures, like oil rigs, coral reef or jetties. The fish also carries venom.
“They’re usually not fatal, however, they are extremely painful,” Ferguson said.
The natural resource specialist said people should safely kill the fish if they do come across it. They should then report the find.
Anyone stung by the Lionfish should seek medical attention immediately. They can call TPWD at 361-972-6253.
According to TPWD, the fish is native to the Indian and Pacific Ocean. The fish was first introduced in the early 90s when they escaped from aquariums in the Biscayne Bay of South Florida. They have since moved along the U.S. West Coast and the Gulf Coast.