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LIONFISH

Adorned in bold maroon, brown and white stripes, lionfish drift through the water by gently waving their fan-like fins. Floating tentacles frame their faces, making lionfish appear soft and delicate. But beware! These mysterious beauties come armed with venomous spines, and they are invading tropical waters around the world.

Local divers have a good chance of seeing a Lionfish on almost every dive, particularly at the site of Green Bay, and many if not all of the wrecks.

Lionfish hail from the South Pacific and Indian oceans, Lionfish feast on shrimp and smaller fish. Lionfish corner their prey against reefs and rocks, then strike suddenly to swallow the prey whole. A voracious species, lionfishes' stomachs can expand to up to 30 times their normal size after a meal, according to Smithsonian magazine, leaving the fish plenty of room for seconds.

Lionfish are ambush predators that feed on the native fishlife here in Cyprus. These fish are naive and don't recognise the Lionfish as predtors, which can make them easy pickings for these skilled hunters. Along the same lines, they are now competitors for the native fish that would usually prey on these smaller fish, which can led to a decline in the native predators and prey.

Lionfish not only have huge appetites, but also breed with similar gusto. They reproduce year-round, meaning a mature female can release about 2 million eggs per year, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

In humans, lionfish stings cause intense pain and sweating, and in extreme cases, respiratory distress and paralysis. The intensity and duration of these effects depend on an individual's sensitivity to the toxin and how many spines have stabbed them. The only known remedy is to remove the spines and soak the wound in hot water, no hotter than 45.6 degrees Celsius, which helps break down the toxin. The pain usually subsides after one or two days but can sometimes persist for weeks.

If you want to see these majestic creatures in their natural environment, let us know and we can point out plenty on your next dive.

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