January 31, 2014
I’m writing to alert you of a study we’ve just published on the effect of invasive lionfish control on native reef fish communities in the Atlantic: http://www.esajournals.org/
Our work 1) looks at whether suppressing lionfish at local scales results in the recovery and protection of resident prey fishes, and 2) develops a model for estimating targets for control, based on the degree to which lionfish abundance must be reduced to alleviate predation effects. The study took place on 24 patch reefs in the Bahamas, each ~150m2and harboring an average of 30 lionfish, where we reduced lionfish to target abundances through monthly culling. Over 18 months, the biomass of native prey fishes increased an average 50-70% on reefs where lionfish numbers were suppressed below levels predicted to cause prey depletion. On the reefs we studied, this equated to removing 75-95% of lionfish. On reefs where lionfish numbers remained higher than target levels, the biomass of prey fishes decreased by a further 50%. While complete eradication of lionfish from the Caribbean is not likely, groups are actively culling them from coastal areas (mostly via spear and net). Our study is a first step in showing that strategic local efforts that suppress the invasion to low levels can help protect and recover native fish communities affected by lionfish.
This research was conducted at the Cape Eleuthera Institute in collaboration with Simon Fraser University, the Cape Eleuthera Institute, and Reef Environmental Education Foundation.
If you have questions about this work or would like a copy of the article, please email me at stephanie.green@science.