Venomous Lionfish invades coastal waters

Lionfish, showing venomous spines on dorsal, pelvic, and anal regions

Native to the tropical Indo-Pacific region, lionfish are often kept in both public and private aquariums. Since 2000, however, lionfish have been observed, primarily by divers in coral, rocky, and artificial reefs along the southeast coast of the U.S., from Florida to North Carolina and also throughout the Bahamas, Bermuda, and Cuba. In more recent years lionfish have also been caught by bottom fishing anglers. Scientists expect lionfish to continue to disperse throughout the Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, and the Florida Keys. There is also increasing concern among fishery scientists that lionfish, having no natural enemies, may adversely impact natural fish populations. In addition, this fish has venomous spines and may pose a danger to divers and anglers alike. NOAA would like to encourage fishermen to be extremely cautious and avoid contact with the venomous spines of the lionfish and to help us spread the word to other anglers.

If an angler does get ‘stung' by the venomous spines, (all the spines are venomous, see figure above) they are advised to immerse wound in hot water for 30 – 90 minutes and seek medical attention as soon as possible. Hook and line or fishing related lionfish catches can be reported to NOAA by emailing to or calling (252) 728-8714.

Some of the files listed above are provided in Adobe® Acrobat® (PDF) format. Adobe® Reader® is required to open these files and is available as a free download from the Adobe® Web site.