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Invasive, venomous lionfish threatens Mediterranean


Migrating from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean, the invasive, venomous lionfish threatens both other fish species and humans. Ertuğrul Çete started to research the lionfish as part of his doctoral thesis.

The lionfish, which is one of about a thousand invasive fish that crossed from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean, started to pose a danger in the seas with its rapid reproduction. The lionfish, which were seen 1-2 in the sea at first, are now seen in groups of 6 or 7 these days.

Ertuğrul Çete, a doctoral student in the Department of Biology at the Faculty of Science and Letters of MEU, started to research the fish, which is both invasive and poisonous.

Çete, who has been taking samples once a month from Anamur to the Iskenderun coast for a year, has been working on them. With the study that will last for 1 more year, subjects such as how the lion fish reproduce, what it is fed, where it lives and how much its poison is will be determined.

“IT IS DANGER BECAUSE IT IS TOXIC”

Making statements about their work, MEU Faculty of Arts and Sciences Department of Biology faculty member Prof. Dr. Serap Ergene said that lionfish are not the fish of the Mediterranean. Emphasizing that these fish came to the Mediterranean from the Red Sea after the opening of the Suez Canal, Ergene said, “It is a fish species from the scorpionfish. It is one of the fish that is visually very beautiful. It makes really nice displays underwater, but it’s also a poisonous fish. There are poisons in the bottom parts of the rays, especially on the back and sides. When we look at it in this sense, it is actually one of the fish that poses a danger. Apart from this danger, the most important danger is that it is invasive in the Mediterranean. After the Suez Canal was opened, a large number of fish migrated from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean. When we look at the Mediterranean in general, there are about a thousand invasive fish. In fact, there are invasive fishes not only in this region, but also in the Aegean and Marmara. When we look at the Turkish coasts, there are only about 500 Red Sea migrant fish. When we look at it in this sense, we are working to investigate where the lionfish is, how it spreads, how it affects the ecosystem in the Mediterranean, how it affects the fish populations here. This is a doctoral thesis. Therefore, when we look at it in this sense, we look at what the lionfish population is in the Eastern Mediterranean region, where it is, and what kind of problem it may cause in this region in the long run. It is a problem right now, yes, but we are working on identifying what kind of problem it will create in the long run.”

“A THREAT ELEMENT FOR PEOPLE LIKE FISHES”

Underlining that lionfish are a very invasive species, Ergene said, “They are also carnivorous. Because they are carnivorous, they put pressure on fish in the Mediterranean. Therefore, there is a food competition here, as they not only create pressure, but also share the food of other fish species. In fact, the Mediterranean is not a very rich sea in terms of fish population. Existing populations are also affected by fish from the Red Sea. One of these fish is the lionfish. It is also a threat to humans. It even has two aspects. It is both a threat and a visual feast. Because it is a very nice view in terms of underwater visuals, but because it is poisonous for people entering the sea, it can cause very painful wounds and gangrene when you step on it or if you step on it somehow. In some people, it even carries poison that can cause anaphylactic shock if the sensitivity is very high. For this reason, we are trying to clearly define the population here, how many of them, how long did they reach this size, when they reproduce, what they feed on,” he said.

“INCREASE IN THE NUMBER MEANS INCREASED DANGER”

Emphasizing that they have been working on these fish for more than a year, Ergene said, “Samples are regularly collected by my students every month. This process will continue for 1 more year. It is not possible to reach a result immediately, but we have a chance to reach a conclusion 3 or 5 times. Probably after a year, the results will be clear. When we look at the first results, it is definitely expansionist and the number is increasing day by day. Previously, one or two dives were encountered, but now 5, 6, 7 can be found together. You can even find these fish in fish markets. So people can catch them now, because their numbers are increasing. The higher the number, the higher the danger. They began to collect lionfish in the USA. Divers began to be paid for this. Maybe in the long term, there may be such a proposal in our seas,” he said.

News2Sea

The opinions expressed herein are the author’s and not necessarily those of News2Sea.

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