Ferocious Fish Found Off Miami Coast

Venomous lionfish found in Biscayne National Park

You won't hear the roar from a lionfish but you will feel its poisonous punch if you get too close.

Until recently, Miamians never had to fear the small Pacific fish, but the capture of one of the zebra-striped creatures in the waters of Biscayne National Park has experts concerned that it won't be long before the fish manipulates Atlantic waters.

The fish was reported by a sport diver last week lurking near a sunken boat used as an artificial reef. The park sent six divers down into the depths to hunt the nine-inch fish with a "Jaws"-live fervor, and an intern hauled it in after two dives.

"They're very docile fish, so you can just very easily slide a net over them," Terry Helmers, a park diver, told the Miami Herald. "It was really a nonevent once we found it, but there were quite a lot of high fives later."

Why all the fuss over a tiny fish? Apparently because they destroy everything in their path. Its fins can release a highly potent venom dangerous to sea life and humans, and they also have an insatiable appetite for anything in the ocean small enough for them to swallow. Though the fish will typically stay away from humans, and their venom isn't deadly, it will cause tremendous pain.

"They pretty much eat anything that comes into their path and, on the flip side, hardly anything eats them," said park biologist Vanessa McDonough.

Experts think the fish may have been dumped into the ocean by an aquarium owner or may have traveled in the bilge water of a ship, though the sighting in Miami isn't the first. Six of the tiny terrors were found in Biscayne Bay after Hurricane Andrew destroyed a tank at a waterfront home.

The park wants divers to report any lionfish sightings and kill or catch them if it can be done safely. They're hoping this fish was an isolated incident but realize that the lionfish's Atlantic arrival was inevitable.

"Personally, I thought it was just a matter of time," McDonough told the Herald. "At least in Miami-Dade we're aren't getting any report of how they're dominating the reefs."

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