Beautiful and voracious

Fort Pierce, FL – They are beautiful, and they are really, really hungry. And they pose a threat to commercial and recreational fishing along the eastern seaboard, including the Treasure Coast. I'm talking about the lionfish - aggressive creatures with red, white and black stripes and flowing fins. Adult lionfish measure about 15 inches and weigh about a pound. They are native to the Pacific. Somehow they came to these waters, where they have few, if any, predators. Perhaps they were set free by aquarium owners because they were eating all the other fish. In this area, lionfish have been found in the Indian River Lagoon and up the Loxahatchee River. Lionfish devour shrimp, crabs and juvenile fish, such as groupers and snappers, and are reducing the populations of some marine species. They dance seductively toward their prey, then - Slurp! -- suck it into their mouth like a vacuum cleaner. A few lionfish in a tank are being studied at the Florida Institute of Technology's lab at Tracking Station Beach off A-1-A just north of Vero Beach. Maybe the researchers there will learn how to halt the takeover of the Atlantic coast by this invader. Their venomous spiky tentacles can sting human swimmers. But lionfish are supposed to be edible. So naturalists tell us, if you can't beat them, then eat them. For 88.9 FM, this is Paul Janensch.
Treasure Coast Essayist Paul Janensch was a newspaper editor and taught journalism at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut.