Many hands and minds make easy work when building lionfish traps! Over the past six months, REEF staff and interns have dived into the NOAA Saltonstall-Kennedy funded Deepwater Lionfish Trap Project, with partners including Tom Matthews, Emily Hutchinson and Sam Hagedorn (FWC), Steve Gittings (NOAA Marine Sanctuaries), Alex Fogg (Coast Watch Alliance), Holden Harris (University of Florida), Rachel Bowman, Peter Angelotti, ReefSave and Lionfish University.
Widespread lionfish trap use may significantly reduce the impacts of lionfish on deep water habitats that are not able to be accessed by recreational divers. Through a series of video meetings, trap building sessions, and field days with ROV and diver surveys, we have observed the deployment of modified trap designs. The goals of these modified designs are to minimize risk of entanglement and bycatch, increase deployment success rate, and maximize lionfish catch.
During our most recent week of fieldwork, we met with Florida Keys lobster fishermen, Gary Nicols, Bruce Irwin, and Butch Hewitt, to gather advice on trap design and deployment strategies. We also had a special tour with Bette Zirkelbach, manager of The Turtle Hospital in Marathon, to discuss turtle behavior and gear risks. Our next step is to examine recent trap designs on lionfish capture during retrieval. We'd like to say a special thank you to Rachel Bowman and Peter Angelotti for their hospitality during our recent week of fieldwork, and for connecting us with the local fishing community and brainstorming with us all week.
We look forward to seeing our lionfish traps in action! Stay tuned for our next project update.