Lionfish spread in Aegean Sea after invading Mediterranean

Lionfish spread in Aegean Sea after invading Mediterranean

Lionfish spread in Aegean Sea after invading Mediterranean

Lionfish that feed on offsprings of other species and became a massive invasive species in the Mediterranean are now seen in the waters off Turkey’s Aegean coasts, an expert has warned.

“We follow the population growth of this fish with worry,” Murat Bilecenoğlu, the head of the Adnan Menderes University’s Hydrobiology Department in the Aegean province of Aydın, told the state-run Anadolu Agency.

“Lionfish were first detected in the Seferihisar district in the [western province of ] İzmir. In just 7 months, the fish spread to the shores of [province’s] Karaburun district,” said Okan Akyol, a professor from the Ege University.

Lionfish, mostly seen in the Indian and the Pacific oceans and the coral reefs in the Red Sea, made their first entry to the Mediterranean through the Suez Canal at the beginning of the 1990s.

Due to global warming, the population of the species spread all over the Mediterranean after 2012 and now has become a threat to the Aegean Sea.

“I saw this fish last year for the first time in my life in Karaburun. The numbers of this species increase rapidly,” said Hamdullah Aras, a professional diver with 30 years of experience.

Akyol blamed the poachers for the spread of lionfish. “It is illegal in Turkey to fish groupers and dusky groupers which consume lionfish. But poachers lowered the population of these two species. So the lionfish spread around.”

Bilenceoğlu warned of other invasive species that can enter the Turkish waters. “Suez Canal is open, so anytime any other invasive species may enter,” he noted.