Lionfish Attacking Atlantic Ocean Like A Living Oil Spill Scientists say they have few weapons to wield against the poison-spined lionfish, which is gobbling up reef fish in the Bahamas and other habitats.

Lionfish Attacking Atlantic Ocean Like A Living Oil Spill

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Closer to home, a predator called the lionfish is disrupting reefs from South America all the way up to North Carolina and has even spread as far north as New York. This fish has red stripes and long, feathery spikes and is rapidly eating its way through local fish species. NPR's Elizabeth Shogren reports that researchers see no way of stopping it.

ELIZABETH SHOGREN, BYLINE: Lad Akins has been diving the vibrant reefs of the Bahamas for many years. But on a trip a couple years ago, he found almost no fish smaller than his hand.

LAD AKINS: Seeing the lack of small reef fish that used to inhabit those sites was very startling to me.

SHOGREN: A hungry interloper called the lionfish was power-eating its way through the Caribbean. Akins coauthored a studied that found that in just two years reefs in the Bahamas lost on average two-thirds of their small prey fish. Larger fish that people like to eat, like red snapper, were down by more than 40 percent. Lionfish are now found all the way from New York to Venezuela. Akins works for the conservation group REEF. He organizes groups of divers to capture or kill lionfish. A government scientist says removing lionfish one by one may help preserve a reef here or there. Ecologist James Morris works for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. He says there's no way to stop the whole invasion.

JAMES MORRIS: It's like an oil spill that keeps reproducing and will keep reproducing forever.

SHOGREN: What makes lionfish so unstoppable is they reproduce every few days and nothing eats them because they're covered with venomous spines. Elizabeth Shogren, NPR News.

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