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KURE BEACH, NC (WWAY) – Thousands of people visit the North Carolina Aquarium each year. From native to invasive species, the aquarium has a lot to display with one animal catching attention.

Aquarium curator Hap Fatzinger said, “The lion fish are invasive species to the East Coast and Atlantic Ocean and over the years the population is increasing tremendously.”

Fatzinger noted the lion fish is covered with venomous spikes helping to defend itself, thus having very few predators. “It’s just showing how the survivalist animals are coming in and creating a little havoc on the reefs by kind of over indulging in our native fishes,” he says.

The aquarium collect 48 lion fish this spring and summer for 3 other facilities including North Carolina Aquarium in Pine Knoll Shores to be used for display as well as to educate on their importance in our ecology. Fatzinger said, “Right now in the lion fish exhibit not only do we have the six lion fish, but we have some large spiny lobsters and some scorpion fish.”

Although it is unlikely to see one close to shore here in Southeastern North Carolina, you are advised to not touch it if you come across one. “If you get stuck by one of those spines it could hurt, like from a bee sting up to a little more severe like a string ray,” Fatzinger said.

The aquarium does not plan to collect any more of the invasive fish.

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