Lionfish invade Loxahatchee River

JUPITER, Fla. - The invasion of lionfish into Florida is worse than previously thought.

It turns out the species has now reached the Loxahatchee River.

The non-native predator has been found in the estuary near Jupiter three miles inside the river.

FIU researchers say this is a real concern because dozens of native juvenile fish use the river as a nursery before making their way to coral reefs and other marine habitats.

The lionfish was first discovered off the cost of Dania Beach in 1985. Now it can be found as far west as Louisiana and as far south as Venezuela.

The fish are considered a threat to the ecosystem.

According to National Geographic, the venom of the lionfish, delivered via an array of up to 18 needle-like dorsal fins, is purely defensive. A sting is extremely painful to humans and can cause nausea and breathing difficulties, but is rarely fatal.

The National Ocean Service says it is likely the fish were introduced to Atlantic waters by amateur aquarists no longer wishing to keep the fish.

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