Meet the Devil Firefish, New Resident of the Adriatic Sea

Katarina Anđelković

devil firefish

August 24, 2023 – Its colloquial names are the devil firefish or common lionfish. Meet Pterois miles, a new, increasingly frequent resident of the Adriatic Sea in Croatia.

As 24Sata writes, it is the worst thing that could happen to a sea. Pterois miles is extremely aggressive, and it can destroy an entire marine ecosystem. It devours indigenous fish species, spreads quickly, has no natural enemies, and it can be deadly for humans. It first appeared in Croatia in 2019, when its invasion of the Adriatic has slowly but surely begun. Reports of its appearance in Croatian waters are becoming more frequent, and the most recent one came in on Wednesday. A fisherman found it near Račišće on Korčula.

“Its appearance was somewhat expected. Unfortunately, it will be an increasingly frequent occurrence during the summer; the question remains what will happen during the winter. This is an Indo-Pacific species that came to the Adriatic exclusively because of the warm sea. It loves seas whose temperature ranges from 25 degrees and above. The Adriatic Sea is becoming warmer due to global warming. We can therefore e that expect that we might not be able to get rid of these fish, which is a disaster. It will be tough”, says Jakov Dulčić, scientific advisor from the Croatian Institute of Oceanography and Fisheries. He added that the entire Eastern Mediterranean faces this problem, i.e. wherever the sea is warm. The temperature of the sea was the limiting factor for its occurrence in the southern parts of the Adriatic.

“It is extremely fertile. It has a very large number of eggs per female, grows quickly, is the main predator of all types of fish, and has a special hunting strategy. Multiple individuals surround an area, and an invasion occurs. That is how they devastate reefs. Pterois miles have no natural enemies. Where it comes from, it is not that aggressive at all because there are sharks, lampreys, as well as giant octopuses that can take care of it. We don’t have that here. It came to us from the Red Sea via the Suez Canal”, claims the scientist. “Its sting can be deadly, especially for children and the elderly who have weaker immunity. In addition, the sting is terribly painful for everyone”, says Dulčić.

The Croatian Institute of Oceanography and Fisheries posted about it on social media as well:

🐟Known as the devil firefish or lionfish, Pterois miles is an invasive Indo-Pacific species known for its harmfulness to local ecosystems. It is notorious for its generous diet of indigenous fish species, and its rapid spread in the colonized areas of the Mediterranean.

⚠️ All spines on its body are poisonous, its stings cause extremely strong pain, and more serious symptoms are possible. In case you get stung, a visit to the doctor is recommended. For this reason, this fish should be approached with caution, especially if caught during fishing. Fortunately, as is the case with other Adriatic fish with poisonous spines, the poison is thermolabile. This means that it can be neutralized with heat (best by soaking the stung area immediately after the sting in water temperature 40-45°C 🌡 for 30-90 min making sure to avoid burns).

📝Recall, this species was recorded for the first time in the Adriatic Sea in 2019, and the northernmost find was near Vis in 2021. Considering the dynamics of its spread, and the trends in the spread of heat-loving species associated with warming seas, it is to be expected that they will appear more and more often. This year, it was recorded several times in the area of the southern Adriatic. Yesterday it was also caught on Korčula, near Račišće. We thank the fisherman Luka Srzić for informing us about his catch. 👍

✔️In order to reduce the negative consequences that this species can cause, we can recommend several measures. First of all, take care of your own safety and handle it carefully if you accidentally or intentionally catch it. Given that it is a territorial species, in the event of a significant population increase, targeted fishing can be an effective measure of population control in areas of higher abundance. Also, reducing the anthropogenic pressure on the marine ecosystem can increase its resistance to the harmful effects of invasive species. In the case of the devil firefish, octopuses and some types of groupers represent the only known predators in the Mediterranean Sea so far, and the preservation of their population can affect the control of the population of Pterois miles.

📸If you notice a firefish while diving, or catch it, please let us know. Its presence is often observed near underwater reefs and at shallower depths accessible to underwater fishermen and recreational divers. The devil firefish tastes great and can be consumed.


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