Lionfish Prowl Eastern Seaboard Dr. Sydney Spiesel, with the online magazine Slate, talks about the plague of the lionfish — a gorgeous little critter that's becoming something of a menace on the Eastern seaboard.
NPR logo

Lionfish Prowl Eastern Seaboard

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/15445769/15445753" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Lionfish Prowl Eastern Seaboard

Lionfish Prowl Eastern Seaboard

Lionfish Prowl Eastern Seaboard

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/15445769/15445753" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Dr. Sydney Spiesel, with the online magazine Slate, says the lionfish is a gorgeous little critter that's becoming something of a menace on the Eastern seaboard.

The fish has stripes down its side and fins that surround its head that look like a main. Spiesel says it also has numerous spines that carry a poison that causes terrible pain to anyone who comes into contact with the fish.

Although the fish is native to Africa and Australia, it can now be found along the East Coast.

Spiesel says there are a few theories about how the exotic fish ended up in American waters: They were either carried over in the ballast water of freighters; dumped into the Atlantic by people who bought them and were unaware how poisonous they are; or six lionfish were washed into the Atlantic from an aquarium that was destroyed when Hurricane Andrew hit South Florida in 1992.

If encountered, Spiesel says, you should run really hot water over the area that was stung. Hot water is recommended, he says, because the poison is broken down by heat. However, because of the intense pain, many people stung by lionfish still end up going to the emergency room.

Spiesel talks to Alex Cohen about the plague of the lionfish.