The Lionfish is an attractive fish and an accomplished hunter, known to use its fins to herd fish into a corner before pouncing….

The Lionfish is part of the same family as Scorpion fish and Stonefish, although in contrast with those two types of fish, the Lionfish is a very attractive fish with its fluttering spines coming from both its dorsal and pectoral fins.

Its method of hunting includes spreading its fins and herding hapless fish into a corner where they cannot escape. Its final pounce, sucking the fish into its mouth is lightning fast.

Their range is most tropical and sub-tropical waters including the Red Sea, Caribbean Sea, Indian and Pacific Oceans. They are a fairly common sight.

In recent years the Lionfish has become an issue in the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea. There are concerns about the impact this fish will have on the local species. I have seen notices posted where different resorts have promoted competitions for divers and spear fishers to capture Lionfish in an attempt to eradicate the fish from their area. Also promotions on the fish in Restaurants.

The supposition is the fish were introduced as a result of the Hurricane Andrew disaster and that fish escaped from amateur aquariums. Personally that sounds a bit far-fetched, while it is possible it is more likely that these are fish that were released into the sea by people bored with keeping the fish…..

The beautiful array of fluttering, flag-like spines are where the danger lies with this fish.

The distribution and manner of functioning of those spines is exactly the same as in the Stone and Scorpion fish - 12-13 dorsal spines, 2 pelvic spines, and 3 anal spines. Each spine is is linked to a pair of venom glands. A loose sheath covers each spine. The sheath is pushed down the spine during poisoning, causing the venom glands located at the base of the spines to be squeezed and release their poison up the spines and into the wound.

The most common source for poisoning comes from owners of home aquariums being stung by Lionfish they are keeping as pets.

The level of toxicity of the poisoning graduates amongst the species from:

  • Lionfish – moderately toxic with non-fatal results.
  • Scorpion fish – Very toxic with few if any fatalities directly related to the toxicity of the poisoning.
  • Stonefish – Extremely toxic and potentially fatal.

Of course the potential for fatality corresponds with the individual being poisoned and one individual may be predisposed to an allergic reaction or similar which might result in a far more serious situation than another.

An analysis of the envenomations in the US:

There was a study done of 101 reported cases. 97% of the cases required standard treatment with the majority of wounds showing redness only, a small amount showed blistering and 1% of cases resulted in necrosis of the tissues. There were no deaths

Symptoms of poisoning:

  • Puncture wound.
  • Sharp pain.
  • Numbness.
  • Swelling.
  • Inflammation.
  • Joint pain.
  • Anxiety.
  • Headache.
  • Disorientation.
  • Bleeding.
  • Nausea.
  • Dizziness.
One patient had a complication with Cellulites

First Aid

Treatment consisted of :

  • The wound should be thoroughly cleaned to remove any debris and remaining broken off spines.
  • Immersion of envenomated limb in hot water for 60 to 90 minutes.
  • Antibiotics.
  • Tetanus injection.
  • Pain medication.
  • The wound should NOT be taped or closed.

The upshot of it is – look but don’t touch…….

To see other pages with information on poisonous fish like the Lionfish, click here