Yesterday, off the Atlantic coast of the Dominican Republic, group of fishermen that work daily in the vicinity of Puerto Plata and the Costámbar development, captured a lionfish, part of what Dominicans are calling an invasion of “the dangerous lionfish, which contains poisonous substances in its fins capable of ending the life of any human being.” The captured lionfish, which displayed blows to the head, was brought to San Felipe authorities and press, causing panic among in the area.
As one of the articles reports, “this marine species, originally from the South Pacific and the islands of Oceania, is also known as ‘turkey fish’ or zebrafish,’ due to the attractiveness of its multicolored fins that end in lethally poisonous thorns.” Spotted for the first time in Florida in 1992 (in the wake of Hurricane Andrew) the lionfish, which is reproducing at alarming rates in the warm waters of the Caribbean, can vary in size from four to fifteen inches. “These predators eat everything in their way, including small shrimp and fish that are double their size.” According to scientific data, lionfish poisoning occurs as part of its natural defense response and only happens when it is disturbed, attacked, or cornered.
In spite of the recent flurry of reports, the lionfish is no newcomer. The Reef Check Foundation has been monitoring lionfish presence for the last couple of years in the Dominican Republic.
For more information on lionfish in the Caribbean and Latin America, see http://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/factsheet.aspx?SpeciesID=963