ALP series: Invasive species
Last Friday speaker Samantha Noll from the ALP (Arts Language and Philosophy) department gave a presentation covering invasive lionfish species destroying Florida’s ecological systems. Species are considered invasive when they are artificially introduced into another ecosystem from whichever one they had originally belonged, and as such have no natural predators. This can cause catastrophic damage to an ecosystem by imbalancing the predator-prey relationships already present and is also incredibly hard to fix.
The issue of the Lionfish epidemic began within the past 40 years, although the exact cause is uncertain. The poisonous fish species is a popular attraction in aquariums across the world because of its unique appearance, with vivid stripes and long elaborate venomous spines covering most of its body. Lionfish were initially native to the tropical waters of Indonesia but within the past 3 or 4 decades managed to appear and reproduce in the Florida keys. Due to Lionfish already having a high reproduction rate, carnivorous diet, and combined with their lack of predators, lionfish have been estimated to have consumed 65% of the biomass in regions they’ve taken according to Noll, and according to a 2016 article by Katie MacQueen for National Geographic have had their population increase 7 fold.
So how do we fix this problem? The obvious response would seem to be to just fish them up like any other fish in the keys but to encourage fishermen to do it in much larger quantities, however as Samatha Noll mentioned in her presentation, conventional fishing methods won’t work because lionfish breed deep underwater. Her alternative was to send people to specifically spear fish them and eat them afterwards.
The other portion of Samantha Noll’s presentation was over the ethicality of eating the lionfish afterwards, including many of the issues people considering vegetarianism have to think through. She covered different ethical arguments other people have presented and their relevance to the lionfish issue, whether or not lionfish should be considered sentient or feeling pain, and whether or not things like that should be considered when weighing the destruction of an ecosystem versus our systematic removal of an entire species. While killing and eating all the lionfish may seem the most brutal option in those regards the alternative solutions to removing the lionfish are either impractical or would have the potential of causing further problems, such as introducing a species to counteract lionfish or finding a way to prevent lionfish from reproducing.
Samantha Noll’s option of specifically spear fishing and eating the lionfish was presented as the most practical solution given the circumstances. The biggest argument to be made for it is simple: if we do not kill off the lionfish, they will simply kill off everything else around them until they run out of prey, in which case they will starve themselves to death anyway or move on to destroy new territories.
Ms. Noll’s presentation was one of many to be given during this academic year’s ALP speaker series that kicked off in October 24th with Polo Camacho. For information on the next one check the department’s website at alp.mst.edu or by checking the mst econnections website. While most topics speakers cover will be related to ethics, arts, or philosophy any student on campus is still welcome to come in and listen regardless of major. The next speaker will most likely not come until next semester as this one is drawing to a close, but it should still be worth checking out.