Rapid decline of lionfish at Saba Bank

Lionfish are beautiful to see, but also venomous and an invasive species. Photo: Rudy van Gelderen

THE BOTTOM- Research conducted by the Saba Bank Management Unit and Wageningen University and Research documented the third rapid decline in the western Atlantic lionfish population since its introduction more than 30 years ago.

The local population crash could indicate that lionfish are reaching the final stage of their invasion in this area.

Lionfish, a venomous fish native to the Indo-Pacific, was first introduced to the western Atlantic more than 30 years ago. Since then, the fish has steadily spread across the Caribbean, now as far south as Brazil. While populations appeared to be expanding rapidly, a “flattening” in numbers is beginning to appear in several locations, leading many experts to believe the Caribbean will begin to see a more stable or even declining population of lionfish.


A recent survey recorded lionfish caught in lobster and redfish (snapper) fishing traps within the Saba Bank. Since 2010, the Saba Bank has seen rapid growth in lionfish numbers and then a population crash since 2020. This represents the third instance of boom-bust events for lionfish populations in the tropical western Atlantic.

It is not yet known what exactly causes the rapid decline in the number of lionfish.

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