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Invasivorism

No idea what Invasivorism is? Neither did I until recently.   It’s a new food movement (‘movement’ might be too strong a word), in which humans hunt predatory species that are a threat to the native species.  Often, invasive species aren’t food for anyone so they multiply rapidly and eat everything in their path, throwing off the homeostasis of an ecosystem.  In addition, their defense mechanism is not a strong offense but a good defense.  For instance, in Japan, puffer fish (fugu) is considered a delicacy.  A puffer fish intimidates potential predators by puffing up, though it’s also toxic.

These days, lionfish are becoming to Americans what puffer fish are to the Japanese.  Lionfish have invaded our reefs and eaten many of the brightly colored, native fish who aren’t expecting to be eaten. Seriously, these lion fish find a new area of the reef and swim around all friendly-like.  The other fish begin to play with the lionfish, darting around the water saying ‘hey buddy, you’re funny looking. Want to play hide and seek?’ and then wham! The lionfish eats him. Native species only learn who their predators are through trial and error but by the time they learn the dangers, the lionfish have reproduced and it’s goodbye guppies.

The human answer? Dine on lionfish! The problem? Who knows the impact this will have on the ecosystem.  Let’s be honest, if the media hypes something (in this case, eating lionfish), we hunt it until we’ve exhausted our supply.  Current experts estimate that we would need to eat about 27% of the Caribbean’s lionfish population to effectively control it. Which brings me to the other issue, lionfish inhabit reefs and multiply so rapidly that we have no idea how many there are.  However, if you’re interested in helping the natives, you can participate in the annual Lionfish Derby in the Bahamas! Just watch out for their poisonous spikes that sting worse than a jellyfish (though not as bad as a stingray so you’ll be fine).  Happy hunting!

 

November 2, 2011 – Update: Snakehead is the latest invasive species target.  Check out this NPR Article.

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