Back to the Source: Lionfish Imported into the United States via the Ornamental Aquarium Trade

Samantha D. Farquhar


Lionfish (Pterois miles and Pterois volitans) are known for their invasive success in the western Atlantic and Caribbean. With few marine fish invasions of similar magnitude being documented, the introduction of lionfish in this area has been deemed one of the fastest and most ecologically harmful introductions to date. Furthermore, this invasion is thought to be caused by negligent aquarists who released ornamental lionfish off the coast of Florida in 1985. Interestingly, lionfish are rare in abundance throughout their native waters of the Indo-Pacific and factors controlling lionfish’s native populations are little studied and not clearly defined. Through the analysis of the Marine Aquarium Biodiversity and Trade Flow database for the years 2008, 2009, and 2011, it was determined that approximately 137,723 lionfish were exported to the United States with Los Angeles, CA being the most popular point of entry. Of this total, 45.5% originated from the Philippines, 27.7% from Indonesia, and 14.5% from Kenya. Pterois volitans was exported from 15 different countries and on average 19 times more than Pterois miles which was exported only from three countries. This paper questions: 1) if the ornamental aquarium trade is affecting lionfish’s native populations and 2) if the lionfish imports could be leading to more introductions in non-native waters. Ultimately, this paper acts as a short communication identifying a need for further research and attention towards this 

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