Our ocean unifies our world, the beauty and vastness of which is a captivating source of inspiration. The feelings of gliding alongside a sea turtle or coming face-to-face with a lionfish, are some of the amazing experiences I have while scuba diving and share through my paintings. It is that awesome sense of mystery and excitement, that I capture in my paintings.

For my ocean-inspired paintings, Lionfish are among my favorite subjects to paint. Their bold tiger-like stripes and long elegant spines are strikingly beautiful. But more importantly, I paint them to raise awareness about this local marine invader. Lionfish are invasive to Florida, and they were introduced to the Atlantic inadvertently and they currently have no known natural predators in the region.

As a stalking predator, lionfish use their large pectoral fins to propel themselves forward, extending their jaws to swallow their prey, up to twice their own length! With this indiscriminate, voracious appetite, lionfish have been compared to a vacuum cleaner. What’s more, they often kill off key species like the parrotfish, which clean algae off corals. Though the lionfish is a stunning fish, it is harmful to Florida’s delicate coral reef ecosystem. And to make matters even worse, a female lionfish is capable of laying 2 million eggs each year.

What can you do?

Fight back! Regular local removal efforts can greatly reduce lionfish populations, allowing native fish to rebound. Lionfish derbies, or all-day fishing competitions, help decrease numbers while raising awareness about the problem. But be careful — their venomous spines contain a strong neurotoxin that can cause extreme pain and swelling if injected.

If you can’t beat ’em, eat ’em! The spines of a lionfish may be venomous, but lionfish meat is not poisonous, quite opposite in fact. Lionfish are also delicious! Their white, buttery meat is wonderful in a variety of dishes, and many restaurants throughout the southern United States and the Caribbean are featuring lionfish on their menus to promote awareness while gratifying culinary connoisseurs.

ABOUT AMANDA ZIRZOW

Amanda is an avid scuba diver, professor of biological sciences, and professional artist who combines her art with her admiration of wildlife and the environment and an awareness of how each of us can do our part to live in harmony with the creatures we admire.

Bring the beauty and excitement of the ocean to your home with vibrant artwork, perfect for your living room, bedroom, den, or office. To see more one-of-a-kind artwork, visit ZirzowGallery.com