The story of the invasion of Pacific lionfish in the Atlantic Ocean, which is destroying our ocean reef systems and native fish life, is about people. People whose demand for exotic pets had unintended consequences – a lionfish population explosion in places where native fish are an easy meal. One of those places is the Flower Garden Banks, off the Texas coast – a place that has barely changed in the 60 years since first being seen by divers. Now threatened by lionfish, the people of the Flower Gardens are fighting to protect this spectacular gift of nature.
The story of the lionfish invasion is about people. People whose demand for exotic pets led to unintended consequences – a population explosion of lionfish in places where the native fish were unprepared to feed a newcomer. People who sounded the alarm. People who banded together to confront the problem. And people who are now fighting to save the places they love, drawing on the powers of social networking to combine their particular skills. One of those places is the Flower Garden Banks, off the Texas coast – a place with some of the healthiest coral reefs left in the world. A place where nature still controls the shots and keeps reminding people to stay on their toes. But it’s also a place now threatened, like so many others, by an invader. And many fear the invasion will cause the reefs of this hidden gem, which have barely changed in the 60 years since they were first seen by divers, to be dragged into the downward spiral that has consumed so many others of its kind in our embattled marine ecosystems. But rather than give in, the people of the Flower Gardens rallied, and their fight to save this spectacular gift of nature is in full swing. Expert divers are selected from all over to join eight marine scientists to make the annual trek to the Flower Garden Banks, remove as many lionfish as possible and tend to the health of this treasure. The scientists dive before and after the removals to study the effects of lionfish on native populations and the effectiveness of the hunters. Lionfish University will produce a documentary film following the expedition aboard M/V Fling, with its eclectic mix of handpicked, dedicated, and often competitive crew of scientists and lionfish hunters. Each and every one feels a proprietary ownership in and duty to maintain the banks as if they were their second home. The people of this expedition remind us that to save the planet we have to act. We the people fouled the air and the ocean. We the people must clean them up if we are to survive. This is a people story that needs to be told - and copied. To be continued….