Native to the Indo-Pacific, two species of lionfish (Pterois miles and P. volitans) have recently become established along the east coast of the U.S., Bermuda, Bahamas, and the north-central Caribbean. Their expansion through the Caribbean is occurring at a rapid pace and recent studies have demonstrated significant impacts of lionfish on native reef fish communities. REEF and NOAA researchers have documented more than 50 species of prey from lionfish stomachs including some commercially valuable species of grouper and snapper.
An Oregon State University study has shown that in 5 weeks, a single lionfish can reduce juvenile recruitment to experimental reefs by almost 80% and Simon Fraser University research is showing that lionfish reduce native reef fish prey much faster than it can recover. With its ravenous appetite, venomous spines. and few if any predators, the lionfish pose significant risks to recreational, commercial and tourism industries.
The Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF), in partnership with NOAA, the USGS, the National Aquarium in Washington D.C., the Bahamas Department of Marine Resources, Simon Fraser University, dive operators and volunteers, has been leading research and removal projects since January of 2007. With over 1700 lionfish collected, REEF's projects have developed methods and materials for early detection, rapid response, reporting, outreach, and market development, which can serve as a model for downstream countries preparing for the invasion.
In recognition of the severity of this issue, DEMA is sponsoring 4 seminars at the Las Vegas trade show to help educate and engage the dive and tourism industries. Lad Akins, Director of Special Projects for REEF along with Andy Dehart, Director of Biological Programs at the National Aquarium in Washington DC and Chris Flook, Collector of Specimens for the Bermuda Aquarium, will present background on the lionfish invasion, what we now know and what the next steps will be in helping to control the spread and minimize impacts.
Seminar dates and schedules include:
Wed Oct 22 - 10:00am - 11:15am - Room S232
Thu Oct 23 - 4:30pm - 5:45pm - Room S232
Fri Oct 24 - 4:30pm - 5:45pm - Room S232
Sat Oct 25 - 8:30am - 9:30am - Room S233 - Espresso Education Session (for dive operators, tourism boards, and government agencies)
For more information on the invasive lionfish problem, visit the REEF booths at DEMA (2305 and 2202) or contact REEF at www.reef.org