Greek scientists have recently launched an attempt to record the actual number of alien fish species from the Red Sea which have “invaded” the Aegean, especially in the north.
They also hope to assess the impact these unwelcome species has already had on the environment — as well as on humans, given that some are toxic and dangerous to consume.
Ichthyologist Sotiris Kyparissis from the Fisheries Research Institute (FRI) explained to the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (AMNA) that more than 280 alien species from the Red Sea have appeared in the Mediterranean, due to the widening of the Suez Canal, warmer seas and other factors.
One of the most dangerous species to have reached the Aegean is the Toadfish, or Lagocephalus sceleratus, whose body contains a deadly neurotoxin which is capable of killing a human being.
Species of poisonous Stonefish, and the spiny Lionfish, whose spines contain a protein-based toxin destroyed by cooking, also pose a threat to the Aegean. Unlike Toadfish, however, the Lionfish can at least be consumed by humans after cooking.
Scientists are trying to discern the impacts these new species have already made on marine ecosystems, Kyparissis said, while his own area of study in the northern Aegean, where the waters are colder, focuses on whether this poses a barrier to the spread of the unwelcome fish.
“If we see large quantities of alien species from the Red Sea in the northern Aegean, then we will consider that something has changed… that this barrier has fallen,” the scientist stated.
The group is also preparing a guide for the public on these alien fish species, with photographs and detailed descriptions, so that all people who fish in Aegean waters will be able to easily recognize them.
The scientists are also encouraging the public and both amateur and professional fishermen to report any such sightings to the FRI.