"The problem with the lionfish is it's like Darwin's nightmare," Oliver Steeds said, standing on the deck of the Baseline Explorer. A late afternoon sun dwindled over the 146-foot research vessel, as it sat anchored in St. George's Harbour on Bermuda's northeast corner. Licks of ocean water dried off a gold-plated submersible parked next to Steeds, the director of a deep ocean exploration project called the Nekton mission, as he recounted the basics of the invasive species. "Lionfish are chowing their way through the food chain, because they don't have any predators," Steeds said. Map of the lionfish spread based on sightings from 1985 to 2015. The first lionfish sightings occurred off the Florida coast in the mid-1980s.
Undoing man's folly is, sometimes, a robot's work. Unwittingly introduced to the Atlantic Ocean over a quarter of a century ago, the lionfish, which is native to the Pacific, is responsible for an ecological disaster of epic proportions in the Caribbean, Bermuda's, and off the shore of Florida coast, and it's spreading up the coast. A complete lack of predators, voracious appetite and ability to reproduce at an astonishing rate has resulted in a mushrooming lionfish population that is decimating ecosystems, coral reefs and the fishing business. SEE ALSO: A fish that doesn't belong is wreaking havoc on our ocean Catching and eating lionfish, which are delicious, sounds like a reasonable solution, but the fish can't be netted, and are generally fished one person and one spear at a time. If fisherman can't catch lionfish en masse, they can't sell them at quantities to food stores and restaurants.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Lionfish have voracious appetites that are upsetting coral reef ecosystems from Rhode Island to Venezuela. But a new nonprofit company has an unusual plan to restore balance to those environments before it's too late. In the latest edition of our online series "ScienceScope," science producer Nsikan Akpan has the scoop. NSIKAN AKPAN: The lionfish is an invasive species. In its native home of the Indo-Pacific, the lionfish is a fierce, unrelenting predator.
YASMEEN QURESHI: Florida's southern coast is one of the most popular dive spots in the world -- home to the only tropical coral reef in continental United States. Hundreds of species of fish live along this reef system. But the fish here are in danger, because of a foreign predator that's been devouring them: lionfish. YASMEEN QURESHI: Eric Nelson is an avid scuba diver who hunts lionfish up to a hundred and thirty feet below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean. ERIC NELSON: They can eat 90 percent of their body weight, everyday, in fish.
Scientists have developed a spear-wielding submersible robot to hunt invasive lionfish in the western Atlantic Ocean. The fish have become a major problem in the waters off the coastal US and Caribbean islands; originally from the South Pacific and Indian oceans, lionfish have no natural predators in the area and are now out-competing native species. Researchers are now hoping an autonomous robot can help solve the problem by weeding out the lionfish and harvesting them without causing further damage to struggling coral reefs. Scientists have developed a spear-wielding submersible robot to hunt invasive lionfish in the western Atlantic Ocean. 'There are economic and environmental benefits to this, and the fish are delicious,' says Brandon Kelly, an undergraduate student at Worcester Polytechnic Institute who developed the robot's computer vision system.