Beautiful yet brutally destructive. That’s the real-life contradiction to be wrestled with where the fish species Pterois, or lionfish, is concerned. Despite their strikingly attractive appearance, scientists are on a quest to find a better way to kill these invasive, nuisance fish. The species’ population grows exponentially in the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Atlantic Ocean. And lionfish don’t belong there. Shooting them one by one with spearguns is not proving effective enough to slow their growth—or the damage they cause. Traps could better control the speckled, spiny, aggressive creature that is native to the South Pacific and Indian oceans.
Flashy, colorful stripes and wild manes of venomous spines do look cool. But looks can be deceiving. Lionfish are voracious invaders with huge appetites. They overrun coral reefs and destroy ecosystems.
“We don’t think we’ll ever eliminate them but if we can get them under control maybe we can get our ecosystem back,” says Thomas R. Matthews. He’s a research administrator for Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute.
Scientists are testing two different lionfish traps. One is a lobster trap with an opening too small for legal lobster, but just right for lionfish. The other trap uses a vertical sheet of lattice, or crisscrossed fencing––as a lure. According to a study in the journal PLOS ONE, the lattice traps caught about 10 lionfish for every other type of fish. That’s a great percentage in the quest to control the pesky fish species.
Steven Gittings works for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. He created the pop-up lattice trap. Its nets are designed to open when they hit the ocean floor. The only fish caught in the trap are those that happen to be hanging around the lattice when the trap is pulled up. For some reason, lionfish seem drawn to the vertical fencelike structure that lattice trap makes on the seafloor.
Lionfish, though venomous, are edible. The traps could provide fish for restaurant tables while reducing the number of ecological pests in deep waters. A study off the coast of Honduras found that bigger lionfish live at depths divers can’t reach. Deep water traps could be invaluable. They’re undergoing further testing. In the meantime, the lionfish population continues to grow.
These brutally aggressive fish are harmful even to humans. How can something so full of splendor to the eye be so dangerous? What looks lovely isn’t always. In 2 Corinthians 11:12-16, Paul warns believers about people who disguise themselves as followers of Christ. He explains that even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit makes clear the difference between something that is truly good, and evil disguised as good.