A study recently published in the Bulletin of Marine Science has some disturbing news for Floridians. The population of venomous, invasive lionfish in the Florida Keys has increased as by as many as 200,000 fish in one year.

In 2010 it was estimated that there where as few as 89,000 lionfish calling the keys home, now researchers are saying that number could have exceeded 335,000.

There are two main species of lionfish the study is concerned with, Pteroris voltans and Pterois miles, are both Indo-Pacific lionfish from the scorpionfish family.

Scorpionfish have a venomous sting that, while not fatal to humans, causes intense pain, swelling, and blistering in most cases. Extreme cases could see temporary limb paralysis, delirium, and even loss of consciousness.

Lionfish have no natural predators in the keys and their spread is expected to continue throughout the Florida coast, Bermuda, and the rest of the region. “I’ve never seen any fish colonize so quickly over such a vast geographic rage,” said Paul Whitfield, NOAA biologist, in the Smithsonian magazine.

Image courtesy Laszlo Ilyes on flickr

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