There’s a new predator in the Western North Atlantic, and it’s taking over. Paula Whitfield and her colleagues at the NOAA Beaufort Laboratory examined the range and abundance of lionfish (Pterois volitans) on the North Carolina continental shelf and in potential Marine Protected Areas (MPA) from NC to Florida. Her team found well-established populations along the continental shelf that were as large as native grouper populations, a potential competitor. Grouper population size serves as an indicator of lionfish proliferation risk because overfishing could open a niche in the local marine ecosystem, increasing resources for the lionfish.
Lionfish have also been found from Long Island to the Bahamas and in Bermuda. In some areas, including in each MPA studied, lionfish were the second most abundant species after scamp. Because of the lionfish’s lack of predators, voracious appetite for local fish, and prolific reproduction strategies, it represents a substantial threat to the present biodiversity of marine ecosystems in the Atlantic.
Biol. Invasions. doi: 10.1007/s10530-006-9005-9 (2007)
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The Burmese python is just one of thousands of non-native animal and plant species that have invaded the United States in the last decades . However this “former pet” has taken a large toll in the Everglades in Florida, killing pets, alligators, and even children. It has become such a problem that, according to the NY Times, Congress is considering a ban on buying nine kinds of giant snakes. Most of the pythons in the park are a product of the international pet trade. National Geographic News stated that over the past 5 years U.S. has imported more than 144,000 Burmese pythons.
Although the pythons have become “celebrities” in Florida, the problems caused by them still remain. The newfound fascination with the snakes seems to have obscured the threat they pose. Attempts to reduce the python population have occurred, such as a six-week hunting season, however the results have not been significant. I think that the best way to control the issue is to ban the buying and selling of the python. Once the cute baby snakes turn into 15-foot-long monsters, some owners try to get rid of their pets by leaving them in the forest. This only escalates the problem. If the U.S. cuts off the booming trade in “exotic pets,” the problem of the killer python would hopefully settle.
It is interesting how the U.S. has allowed this pet trade to occur for so long. I would think that it would be obvious that 15-20 foot Asian pythons would be dangerous as pets. However, now that people have been strangled by these beasts, the officials have no choice but to take action.
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