/* Style Definitions */
mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
Can the invasive lionfish be stopped? Three research projects are underway at Florida Sea Grant to test methods that remove or control this invasive in the south Atlantic and Caribbean. One project is being conducted by Reef Environmental Education Foundation, REEF, the grassroots citizens’ organization headquartered in Key Largo. It will compare removal strategies on coral reefs in selected locations in South Florida and the U.S. Virgin Islands. (See http://www.reef.org/lionfish).
A second project out of the University of South Florida will use a more extensive field sampling method over two years to determine the frequency with which derbies (fishing tournaments), traps and other manual removal efforts must be conducted to dent lionfish numbers enough so they no longer harm native coral reefs and fish.
A lionfish derby is a one-day team competition to collect as many lionfish as possible. Teams collect lionfish during daylight hours using a variety of capture methods while either SCUBA diving, free diving or snorkeling. Prizes are awarded to the teams with the most, biggest, and smallest lionfish caught.
The third project evaluates the effectiveness of using lionfish derbies to reduce lionfish numbers in Puerto Rico. Complete eradication of lionfish is unlikely, but there is hope that developing methods for local removal may be the key to controlling them and mitigating further damage.
According to the REEF website, lionfish are:
1) Voracious predators being shown to eat native fish and crustaceans in large quantities, including both ecologically and economically important species like grunts, snapper, Nassau grouper, and cleaner shrimp
2) Not known to have any native predators
3) Equipped with venomous dorsal, ventral and anal spines, which deter predators and can cause painful wounds to humans
4) Capable of reproducing year-round with unique reproduction mechanisms not commonly found in native fishes (females can reproduce every 4 days!)
5) Relatively resistant to parasites, giving them another advantage over native species
6) Fast in their growth, able to outgrow native species with whom they compete for food and space
Non-native marine fishes can pose a major threat to marine fisheries, habitats, and eco-system function. Increased reports of non-native species and the successful invasion of lionfish in Atlantic waters have proven the need for early warning and rapid response to confirmed sightings. REEF has been working with federal, state, and local partners as well as divers and dive operators, public aquaria, and foreign fisheries departments to enact rapid response protocol and removals and to assist with scientific investigations related to non-native marine species.
Indo-pacific Red Lionfish (Pterois volitans) have been documented along the entire US East Coast from Florida through Massachusetts, east to Bermuda and south throughout the Caribbean. The expansion has been extremely rapid and exponential in scope.
What is REEF doing about it?
Since 1994, REEF has maintained an on-line educational section on non-native species as well as an on-line exotic species reporting page. Divers are encouraged to submit any sightings of non-native species via this sightings reporting form. Since 2006, REEF has been working in close partnership with government agencies and partners throughout the region to help develop lionfish response plans, train resource managers and dive operators in effective collecting and handling techniques and conduct cutting edge research to help address the invasion. To aid in this effort, REEF currently enlists interested divers and snorkelers to join organized lionfish research and removal projects and encourages public participation in helping address the invasion. REEF features a section on its website on how you can help.
For more information about these projects, contact Maia McGuire, Florida Sea Grant extension, firstname.lastname@example.org, 386-437-7464.