Lionfish are native to the Indo-Pacific, but unfortunately they are well established throughout the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic as far up as North Carolina. The lionfish established here comprise two species: Pterois volitans, the red lionfish, and P. miles, the devil firefish. The lion’s share — 93 percent of those established — are red lionfish.
Isolated lionfish sightings were first documented in Southeast Florida in the 1980s, and by the early 2000s they were established in that area. They then expanded to the Bermuda (2004), the Bahamas (2005), the Turks and Caicos (2008), the Cayman Islands and the Florida Keys (2009) and the Gulf of Mexico (2010). Today, they are a common sighting on any natural or manmade reef in the listed areas — including those off Southwest Florida.
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