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Lionfish Invade Miami's Inshore Waters; 'Divers Should Use Extra Caution'

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KEY BISCAYNE, Florida -- Lionfish may soon be a common feature in the shallow waters off Miami. A juvenile of these invasive exotic species was captured just off Key Biscayne's beach on Saturday, one of five sighted in the area within the past few weeks.

Lionfish are native to the Pacific Ocean and are reported to reproduce fast and eat ravenously, potentially threatening the balance of South Florida's natural marine ecosystems by gobbling up juvenile lobsters, groupers and other reef species.

Their presence may conflict with this years lobster season, as Lionfish share the same habitat with lobsters, including underwater ledges and holes, and are also highly poisonous, equipped with an array of venomous spines, each which can deliver a painful sting.

Local snorkeling enthusiast Steven Lutz, collected the juvenile Lionfish on Saturday with Dr. Michael Schmale from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School for Marine and Atmospheric Science. Researchers can use genetic analysis on the fish to determine where they originated from.

"I have been swimming these waters for the past twenty years and this is the first time we have seen them here," said Lutz. "Divers should use extra caution when grabbing for a lobster this season, or they might be in for a nasty and painful surprise."

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