Two Days to Help Study Invasive Lionfish

Written by on September 4, 2014 in Fish, Marine Life
Lionfish. Photo credit: Corey Eddy.

Lionfish. Photo credit: Corey Eddy.

As many of you know, lionfish (Pterois miles and P. volitans) from the Indo-Pacific have recently invaded the northwest Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, and their population has spread like wildfire. As voracious predators, they pose a major threat to economically and ecologically important fish species and, therefore, the overall health of coral reef ecosystems. Rapid growth of the lionfish population could have disastrous consequences for the marine environment across the entire western Atlantic. Control of this invasion and its impact is only possible with a complete understanding of their biology, behavior and habits.

In Bermuda, a team has been formed to tackle the lionfish invasion, with members from the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences, the Bermuda Zoological Society, the Bermuda Government’s Departments of Environmental Protection and Conservation Services, the Ocean Support Foundation, and the University of Massachusetts. Corey Eddy, the partner from UMass, is using much of this research as his doctoral thesis. We already met Corey last summer when the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute launched its lionfish exhibit (link). The team is conducting surveys around Bermuda to determine the abundance and distribution of lionfish and to collect as many as possible. They will also investigate the feeding habits and growth and reproduction rates of lionfish to predict the ecological impact they will have. With this information, the team will also estimate how many need to be caught annually to minimize that impact and develop a comprehensive, strategic management plan to do so.

While the majority of this work is already funded by a Darwin Plus grant from the Department of Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs in the UK, one segment of Corey’s work needs a bit of support. To investigate elements of lionfish feeding ecology, using something called stable isotope analysis, he needs to keep 20 or more lionfish in captivity for twelve months. This work will help us understand the lionfish feeding habits, its position within the food web, and even which species it competes with for resources. Although he has purchased the equipment and caught most of the fish, he does not have the necessary funds to hire an aquarist to assist him with daily operations and maintenance of the experiment. As an alternative to traditional grant programs, Corey has chosen to pursue online crowdfunding. At this time, he needs more support. We encourage you to review his project and consider making a small contribution to his fundraising campaign. We also hope you will help us promote this opportunity by telling a few friends, co-workers, or family members about this very important project. While his target is not modest, “many hands make light work”. If we all help little, he will reach his goals.

Learn more about the campaign here.

Lionfish.

Lionfish. Photo credit: Sudden Fiction via photopin cc.

Copyright © 2014 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

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