The Lionfish Invasion: Cause The Decline

Presented by Jocelyn Curtis-Quick

Jocelyn Curtis-Quick, Alicia Hendrix, Alanna Waldman, Alexio Brown, Robert Drummond, Adrian Feller, Skylar Miler, Jason Selwyn, Stephanie Green, J Lad Akins, Isabelle Cote.

The lionfish invasion has become an issue of critical concern in the Western Atlantic. There is substantial research demonstrating the negative effects of the invaders on native reef fish. Surprisingly, little is known about the long-term impacts of invasive lionfish on fish assemblages and the cascading effects on reef benthic cover. More specifically, the reduction in herbivorous species and the implications for coral and algae cover. This study presents monitoring data conducted over a five-year period on patch reefs surrounding South Eleuthera, The Bahamas. Sixteen patch reefs were monitored, half of which had lionfish removed quarterly to compare invaded versus non-invaded sites. All sites were surveyed for benthic cover and complexity annually, and fish biomass and abundance surveys were conducted quarterly. This experimental design allows for an assessment of the long-term impacts of the culling program as a form of reef protection. In addition to culling, lionfish removal efforts through the creation of a lionfish market have been developed on Eleuthera. The Island School in collaboration with the Cape Eleuthera Institute started a lionfish fishery. Buying lionfish from local fishermen year around The ‘You Slay, We Pay’ campaign resulted in more than 1500lbs of the invaders being brought in by just six fisheries during 2015. This is a significant amount, particularly when compared to the 35lbs removed by the long-term culling program over the same period. The lionfish market has the potential to reduce the number of lionfish from Bahamian reefs. The growth in demand for lionfish meat and fins for jewelry can be achieved by increased awareness and education resulting in wide scale removal efforts and support the decline.

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