A half-century ago, American aquarium enthusiasts began importing the Indonesian lionfish. Attracted by the zebra-striped fish's exotic appearance, they had no idea that a series of storms and accidents in the 1980s and '90s would release handfuls of these creatures out into the open ocean. Once free, the escapees bred like bunny rabbits (actually hundreds, if not thousands of times faster than bunny rabbits) and proceeded to eat all the colorful reef fish they could get their jaws around. Radiating out from Florida, they were joined by subsequent aquarium escapees, and soon, lionfish population growth achieved enough momentum for a full-scale invasion of the tropical Atlantic.
When native fish encounter lionfish for the first time, they suffer from something that biologists call "prey naïveté." They dart playfully around the lionfish's coral-like tendrils. They cozy up to its flanks and hide in its branching fins. And then the lionfish eats them. Many biologists have concluded that the only way to stop the venomous, invasive lionfish from eating everything is to find something that eats the lionfish. And the only creature that has shown any interest in eating the venomous, invasive lionfish, thus far, is us.
As someone who both fishes a fair amount and feels a fair amount of guilt about it, I see lionfish as a way out of my moral quandary: Here's a fish that really ought to be caught and eaten. But it turns out the only effective way to rid a reef of lionfish is to don scuba gear and scoop them up with a net or stick them with a spear (lionfish can grow up to one-and-a-half feet long). And I am a rotten scuba diver. The last time I dove, I lost my buoyancy and nearly disappeared into a 400-foot-deep Hawaiian abyss.