Question is when, not if, lionfish will reach Pacific

The arrival of the lionfish in eastern Pacific waters seems inevitable, and the only question is how will the creatures make the move.

The lionfish (Pterois volitans) has been ravaging the Caribbean since the 1980s. Costa Rica has taken steps to reduce the numbers of the fast-breeding fish.

The success has been limited even though lionfish derbies are held in the southern Caribbean communities.

The problem is that the fish has no natural enemies in the Caribbean, and it eats game fish larva and all those smaller fish that graze on the algae that could strangle coral.

Andrew Sellers, a researcher from McGill University in Canada, has suggested that the fish could cross the Isthmus of Panama via the 80-kilometer canal.

However, a report on his work from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute says the more likely scenario is that the colorful fish will be dumped into the Pacific by an aquarium hobbyist. That is probably what happened in the United States.

When the fish reaches the Pacific, the impact will be major on all the sport and commercial ventures related to fishing. Perhaps the only good news is that the lionfish is good eating.

In the meantime, the reefs are being watched closely for the first lionfish.

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