Lionfish — gotta love 'em, gotta hate 'em.
The love part is that lionfish taste great; a lot of people, including me, compare them to hogfish.
The hate part is that lionfish are voracious exotic (non-native) animals from the Indo-Pacific region that have no natural enemies and gobble up huge quantities of juvenile grouper, snapper and other desirable native species; they also breed like crazy: A female lionfish lays 30,000 eggs per spawn and can spawn three times a month. Studies have shown that these fish can become the dominant species in an ecosystem in a few weeks.
Lionfish were first reported off Lee County in 2011; since then, they've become increasingly prevalent and, therefore, more of a threat to local fish populations.
Because lionfish are such bad guys that taste so good, Lee County marine scientist Mike Campbell and The Heights Foundation have organized Lionfish Fest, which includes a Lionfish Roundup on May 3, during which divers compete to see who can kill the most, biggest and smallest lionfish, and, on May 4, a Feast on the Beast Chef Cook-off, during which several area chefs (the number hasn't been determined) will compete to come up with the tastiest lionfish dish.
Tickets for the event are $50.
To purchase tickets and find out how to participate in the Lionfish Roundup, go to leereefs.org/lionfish-fest.
Lionfish Fest is also on Facebook: facebook.com/lionfishfest.
All proceeds go to the Lee Reefs Marine Management Fund and The Heights Foundation.
Although I've only seen three in the wild, octopuses are my favorite animals because they're very cool looking, very smart and very tasty.
Anyhow, last month, The News-Press ran a great photograph of a baby Caribbean pygmy octopus (Octopus mercatoris) that seems to be dancing on a pencil eraser (many media outlets ran the photo, including NBC's Today, in Scientific American and on geekosystem.com). The octopus had just hatched in The Aquarium at Mote Marine Laboratory, whose new exhibit Survivors: Beautiful and Extreme Adaptations features octopuses, cuttlefish, peacock mantis shrimp and Vietnamese mossy frogs.
Well, a new batch of octopuses, this time Caribbean reef octopus, have hatched, and you can see video of the proud octo-mom and her brood at youtu.be/BhDusHgAgnc.
And, yes, the preferred plural of "octopus" is "octopuses," though octopi and octopodes are acceptable.