Lonely Planet Writer

Pretty but spiky: Alien lionfish spreading through the Mediterranean waters

If you’re planning a trip to the Mediterranean this summer, experts are warning that you should be careful – rising sea temperatures mean that a poisonous species of alien lionfish are taking over the coasts near popular tourist destinations, and breeding in their waters. They’ve already colonised an entire coast in Cyprus‘ south east, and they’re changing the biodiversity of the area.

A lionfish in a tank (YAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images)
A lionfish in a tank (YAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images)

And now, the broadening of the Suez Canal means that the whole region is potentially at risk of similar. Lionfish might look quite cute with their animated little faces, but beware – they’re very dangerous. Their fin rays are full of venom, and while not fatal often, their stings hurt a lot and can make you feel pretty sick.

Protaras resort, Cyprus. Image by George M. Groutas / CC BY 2.0
Protaras resort, Cyprus. Image by George M. Groutas / CC BY 2.0 Image by George M. Groutas / CC BY 2.0

The carnivores feed on a variety of fish and crustaceans, which mean they’re dangerous to peaceful prey that naturally live in these waters, and they have particularly hardy eggs that can ride currents in the ocean over vast distances. Plus, they spawn every few days, which mean their progeny is large. So if you’re going down to the Med today (or any time soon), watch out for this guy!

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)