Is There A Disturbance In “The Force”?

Photo by Alex Fogg

Skin Lesions on LionFish

In the novel “War of the Worlds” by HG Wells, powerful alien invaders wreaked havoc on planet earth, nearly destroying all of humankind before eventually being brought down by something so simple and unexpected: the common cold.

Could something similar be taking place right now within the ranks of the invasive lionfish? Lionfish throughout the affected regions of the Western Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and some Caribbean island locations have all documented nasty looking lesions or ulcers on their flesh. Currently, only a relatively small percentage of their populations are showing these signs.

We have been following this event (lionfish showing skin lesions) for nearly two years now. Several researchers have been studying samples of ulcerated fish from many different locations. A relatively small percentage of lionfish are affected across the invaded areas. The northern Gulf of Mexico seemed to be a bit of a hot-spot about a year ago, but reports of skin lesions have been waning lately.

It is suspected that some lionfish did not survive the “infection,” while others appeared to have survived with healed scars and seem to be doing well. These lesions are very similar in appearance to several other common fish-related skin diseases, but scientists have not been able to pin it down exactly.

What can you do to help:

Should anyone encounter a lionfish that has signs of these lesions, report it to the FWC. MyFWC.com/FishKill and provide them with the following info:

1. Location

2. The number of lionfish you noted with ulcers

3. A photograph of what you saw, if possible

To date, there have been no reports of people becoming ill from eating lionfish presenting skin ulcers. We and many others will continue to consume this delicious invader. As additional research provides further clarification on this situation, we will gladly pass it on.

By Bob Hickerson, Team Frapper-Florida

Here is the link to a published research paper on this event: 

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/328462223_First_Report_of_an_Emerging_Ulcerative_Skin_Disease_in_Invasive_Lionfish?fbclid=IwAR1J1Rvqs5nxC29vCU6SshPjSCurRqF1lsrfS8E_OTJmdSVGQvMsQinU4CI

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