Gulf Coast Lionfish Coalition education mitigation utilization

Lionfish Facts


are not native to the

Gulf of Mexico

. They originate from the Indo-Pacific and Red Sea, and it is believed that they spread into the Gulf after they were introduced by aquarium owners off of Southeast Florida in the 1980's. Lionfish began showing up in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, and has now become established throughout the region. It is not uncommon to find more than 100 lionfish on a reef the size of a small car!

  • The Lionfish (Pterois sp.) is a non-native, invasive species originally from the Indo-Pacific and Red Sea.
  • Lionfish possess 13 dorsal, 2 pelvic, and 3 anal spines that are venomous and can cause a very painful stick if not handled carefully.
  • Lionfish have no natural predators in our area.
  • Lionfish are very difficult to catch using traditional hook & line fishing methods.
  • Lionfish are known to eat native fish and crustaceans in very large quantities.
  • Lionfish stomachs can expand over 30 times in volume after consuming a large meal.
  • Lionfish have been observed consuming prey up to 2/3 of their own length.
  • Lionfish have been found to reduce average net juvenile fish recruitment by 79%.
  • Lionfish are capable of long-term fasting, and have demonstrated the ability to withstand starvation for periods of up to 12 weeks.
  • Lionfish in the Gulf of Mexico are capable of releasing up to 115,000 eggs (average: 27,000) as often as every 2-3 days.
  • Lionfish are found in higher densities in the Gulf of Mexico compared to other invaded regions.

Lionfish Facts

Adult lionfish in the Gulf of Mexico average about 9 inches long, and just over one-half pound in weight. The largest lionfish recorded in the Gulf of Mexico was 17.2 inches long. The world record lionfish (captured in Southeast


) was 18.5 inches long. There have been unverified reports of larger fish harvested in U.S. waters. Click the lionfish records link for the current Gulf States lionfish records. To report a state record in the Gulf of Mexico please contact the Gulf Coast Lionfish Coalition for instructions.

Lionfish are typically white, with maroon stripes, but they have the ability to shift colors to blend in with their environments over time, and it's not unusual to find specimens that are almost completely white or black.

Whole Fried Lionfish

Lionfish have venomous dorsal, pelvic, and anal fin spines that are needle-sharp, and easily penetrate wet suits. While lionfish venom is not known to cause fatalities, it is very painful, and may cause severe swelling to the affected areas of the body.

The best treatment for a lionfish envenomation seems to be submersion in non-scalding hot water. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory or analgesic medications may also be helpful in reducing the pain and swelling associated with a lionfish sting. Allergic reactions or shock symptoms should be considered an emergency situation that requires immediate medical treatment.

Orange Beach Lionfish

Lionfish are outstanding table fare. With its mild, sweet, and flaky flesh, lionfish can be prepared a number of different ways. Lionfish are just as safe to eat as the more common Snapper and Grouper species.

We highly recommend trying the award-winning lionfish nachos at the FloraBama Yacht Club. Whenever Chef Chris can get his hands on these tasty fish, everyone is in for a treat!

SO, the next time you are at your favorite restaurant, ask for lionfish. Creating a demand for these delicious fish will encourage local divers and fishermen to get out there and remove lionfish.