Native to the tropical Indo-Pacific region, lionfish are often kept in both public and private aquariums. Since 2000, however, lionfish have been observed, primarily by scuba divers in coral, rocky and artificial reefs along the southeast coast of the U.S., from Florida to North Carolina and also throughout the Bahamas, Bermuda and Cuba.
In more recent years, lionfish have also been caught by bottom-fishing anglers. Scientists expect lionfish to continue to disperse throughout the Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico and the Florida Keys. There is also increasing concern among fishery scientists that lionfish, having no natural enemies, may adversely impact natural fish populations. In addition, this fish has venomous spines and may pose a danger to divers and anglers alike. NOAA would like to encourage divers and fishermen to be extremely cautious and to avoid contact with the venomous spines of the lionfish and to help us spread the word about these hazardous fish by posting and distributing the informational flyers, available below.
If someone gets stung by the venomous spines — all the spines are venomous; see photo — they are advised to immerse the wound in hot water for 30-90 minutes and to seek medical attention as soon as possible. To report hook-and-line or fishing-related lionfish catches to NOAA, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 252-728-8714.