Headline for Featured Item #1 First Confirmed Spotting of Venomous Lionfish along Mid-Texas Coast, Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies Reports - Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi
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First Confirmed Spotting of Venomous Lionfish along Mid-Texas Coast, Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies Reports

September 26, 2012

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas- Footage shot by scientists with the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies is the first documented video confirmation that a new non-native marine predator may pose a threat to the ecology of the waters along the Texas coast. 

Lionfish, venomous marine fish previously found mostly in the western Pacific Ocean, have been appearing in the Caribbean since the 1980s. While lionfish are becoming increasingly sighted around the Gulf of Mexico, most previous reports have come from areas east of Louisiana, particularly in Florida’s coastal waters. These predators measure up to approximately18 inches and feed on small fish and invertebrates. Because they have few natural enemies, lionfish may negatively impact native species in the newly-invaded ecosystems. 

“Reported sightings in the Texas coastal area are rather recent and, to the best of our knowledge, this is the first confirmed video documentation of a lionfish from the Texas coastal region,” said Dr. Matthew Ajemian, a post-doctoral fellow with the HRI at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.

The video of the lionfish was shot on Friday, Sept. 21, by the HRI’s Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV), at an artificial reef located about 40 miles southeast of Port Aransas. HRI scientists are currently working with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department on a fish community assessment of the artificial reefs along the Texas coast which are comprised of liberty ships, barges, and a variety of cut-off and toppled jackets from decommissioned oil and gas platforms.

While lionfish do not pose a danger to beachgoers, they are a concern to fishermen and divers because of their venomous fin rays. A lionfish sting can cause extreme pain, nausea, vomiting, fever, breathing difficulties, convulsions, dizziness, and, in rare cases, can cause temporary paralysis of the limbs, heart failure, and death.

“The presence of invasive lionfish in our offshore waters is disconcerting due to their aggressive nature, high spawning activity, generalist diet, and because they lack many predators,” said Ajemian. “We will be continuing our ROV based surveys through next year. These continued surveys will allow us to examine the pervasiveness of these lionfish across dozens of artificial and natural reef locations off the Texas coast.”

The Harte Research Institute (HRI) for Gulf of Mexico Studies is an endowed and developing research institute at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and is an established leader in the preservation of an ecologically and economically sustainable Gulf of Mexico. The HRI encourages a tri-national responsibility and approach to understanding the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem, including the United States, Mexico, and Cuba, and promotes excellence and innovation in interdisciplinary scientific research, public policy initiatives, and education of the public. http://www.harteresearchinstitute.org/

As a premier institution of higher education, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi provides a solid academic reputation, renowned faculty, and highly-rated degree programs. The prestige and strength of a Texas A&M-Corpus Christi degree are known worldwide and well-respected. As a university offering bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees, our undergraduate students learn from faculty who engage in cutting-edge research, serve the greater community, and bring a real-world attitude into the classroom. http://www.tamucc.edu/

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