Posts Tagged 'invasive species'



Kicking Off March with National Invasive Species Awareness Week!

March 3-8 is National Invasive Species Awareness Week (NISAW)! National Aquarium, Washington, DC is participating to raise awareness about this international environmental issue.

So, what is an invasive species? 

An invasive species is any species that is non-native to the ecosystem that has the potential to cause economic or environmental harm to the ecosystem, or to human health. Invasive species pose a great danger to marine ecosystems by altering the water quality and competing with native species for food and other resources.

red lionfish

Red lionfish

Possibly the most well-known of all invasive species is the red lionfish Pterois volitans. This species has made a long journey from their native home of Indo-Pacific coral reefs to the coral reefs of the Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, and Atlantic Ocean.

Their venomous spines make the red lionfish inedible to most predators, which has lead to an exponential growth of this species since their introduction into these ecosystems. Efforts are now being made to educate local communities on how to catch and prepare lionfish as a sustainable seafood (Did you know? Lionfish was even one of the featured ingredients for a past Fresh Thoughts dinner!).

red lionfish

One of the most famous invasive species in Maryland is the Northern snakehead (Channa argus). Sometimes called the “Frankenfish,” this species is native to China, Russia, and North and South Korea.

Northern snakehead

Northern snakehead

In 2002, an adult snakehead was discovered in a pond in Crofton, Maryland, likely released into the water after being bought at a local fish market. Since first being found in local waters (including the Potomac), its territory has spread along the East Coast from New York to Florida, and the species is beginning to expand west! The snakehead is an apex predator and poses a serious threat to local fish populations.

Want to learn more? Join us at our DC venue for “Invasive Species on the Menu,” a discussion on methods of combating the rapid expansion of invasive species into local ecosystems.

Stay tuned for more updates during National Invasive Species Awareness Week! 

Animal Update – November 30

Between our Baltimore and Washington, DC, venues, more than 17,500 animals representing 900 species call the National Aquarium home. There are constant changes, additions, and more going on behind the scenes that our guests may not notice during their visit. We want to share these fun updates with our community so we’re bringing them to you in our weekly Animal Update posts!

Check our blog every Friday to find out what’s going on… here’s what’s new this week!

animal update

Lionfish

We have five new lionfish in our “Hiding” exhibit!

Lionfish

This vibrant species may look harmless, but each point of its needle-like dorsal fin packs a powerful punch of venom to any potential predators.

Lionfish, also known as “dragon fish” or “scorpion fish” are native to the reefs of the Indo-Pacific, however, they have spread to warm oceans world-wide and are now considered to be an invasive species.

The spike in their population world-wide poses a significant threat to ecosystems in the Gulf of Mexico and South America.

Lionfish mouth

Over the years, the lionfish in the National Aquarium’s collection have come from areas in the Florida Keys in an effort to curb the threat this species is posing to native populations.

Be sure to check back every Friday to find out what’s happening!

Now serving, red lionfish

The National Aquarium’s DC venue recently teamed up with several east coast eateries to introduce a unique sustainable lionfish blogseafood menu item, lionfish, whose taste is distinctive as its story.  

 The Red Lionfish is an invasive species with strong defense mechanisms in its venomous pectoral spines.  It preys on fish, shrimp and crabs and have even been observed feeding on fish more than half their total size!

The National Aquarium’s research team has observed a tenfold increase in lionfish numbers in the Bahamas from 2005 to 2007, with ongoing spread throughout the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico.  In 2009, researchers were dismayed to confirm the arrival of the Red Lionfish in the Florida Keys. Ongoing research continues to determine what effects these invaders are having on native marine ecosystems.

At a time when concerned vendors, restaurateurs and diners are seeking sustainable seafood choices, the Red Lionfish may provide a commercial opportunity as well as a means to controlling an invasive species in the Atlantic. With so many fish stocks over exploited, the lionfish offers a great-tasting fillet (similar taste and texture to Tilapia) and a new product for the Atlantic- based fishing industry. 

Continue reading ‘Now serving, red lionfish’

In the News: invasive species poses threat to waterways

The Baltimore Sun recently reported on an alien mussel species that was found in the Susquehanna River by a fish survey team. (click here for full story) In short, a single zebra mussel was scooped from inside a water intake pipe and is now being tested for positive identification. Invasive species experts fear that a larger population of this species could be growing, a species that is capable of clogging public water systems and hydro-electric dams, destroying native species of mollusks, and causing millions of dollars in damage.

Researchers at the National Aquarium agree that large populations of zebra mussels could lead to big problems for the Susquehanna River, however, it should be noted that this species will most likely not survive in the salty waters of the Chesapeake Bay. This invasive species is a known for its rapid population growth in the Great Lakes. Therefore, it is possible that zebra mussels could expand into the upper Bay in springtime when salinities are very low. So if the species were able to adapt to living in brackish water, its spread throughout the Bay would be devastating to the already struggling oyster industry.

The present threat, however, is on the native species of the river. If populated, the zebra mussels would settle and grow on the native mollusks species, eventually completely covering and killing them. We saw this in the Great Lakes, and unfortunately, the only tactic left to prevent some of the native mollusks from going extinct was to remove them from the wild to refuge situations. So, finding invasive species and removing them before they spread is very crucial.

Continue reading ‘In the News: invasive species poses threat to waterways’


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