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Poisonous lionfish spreads to neighbouring Sicily

Exotic fish had first been reported in Malta in July

The lionfish's venom can be lethal. Photo: Shutterstock

The lionfish's venom can be lethal. Photo: Shutterstock

A dazzling tropical fish reported in Malta last July has now been sighted in waters belonging to neighbouring Sicily and Tunisia. 

The fish was also reported in Tunisian waters in 2015, confirming that it travelled from Cyprus to the Central Mediterranean in 2014 and 2015.

Environmental Institute ISPRA reported that the lionfish, which it described as "one of the world's most invasive marine species", had been spotted in the Strait of Sicily and Gulf of Tunis.

It issued a call for mariners in the areas to be on high alert for the lionfish and to report any sightings.   

The lionfish, which originates in the Indian and Pacific oceans but is also found in the Red Sea, is a voracious fish eater which environmentalists fear could harm indigenous marine life.

And if that is not concerning enough, the fish is also poisonous, with its sting causing excruciating pain, sometimes paralysis, or even death. The fish's poison remains active for up to 48 hours after its death.

Locally, mariners who catch sight of a lionfish should contact a research team lead by Adriana Vella by emailing [email protected]

Dr Vella's team is working with local fishermen to identify alien species in Maltese waters, to better understand how they may impact local reef fish species. 

The collaboration, Dr Vella said, allowed fishermen to better understand changes in marine life, while providing the research team with new knowledge and data. 

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