From March to June of this year, the REEF Conservation Science team completed a rigorous set of field testing for two types of deep water traps to capture invasive lionfish: the Gittings Noncontainment Trap, and a modified lobster trap, both designed for capturing lionfish from mesophotic reefs in the Florida Keys. With the help of Forever Young Charter Company and local volunteers, our team deployed these traps in a paired design at 43 different natural and artificial reefs across the Upper Florida Keys. The two trap types were each deployed for three days, in the sand near a reef or artificial structure, in 30 meters of water. To test if light lured in more lionfish or bycatch, nearly half of the traps also had pot lights on them. The goal was to understand lionfish and bycatch catch rate and recruitment for each trap design. At the end of the field testing period, one lionfish had been caught in the lobster trap, and zero lionfish were caught in the Gittings traps. Although both designs yielded minimal bycatch, the lobster trap produced slightly higher bycatch, with Tomtate grunts and Hogfish being the most commonly caught species.

After field testing was complete, the team spent several months reviewing video footage from the deployments. Video analysis suggests that there was limited recruitment of lionfish to both trap designs, even when lionfish were abundant on nearby sites. Based on the results of this study, it seems that traps may not be effective in attracting invasive lionfish and reducing populations, even on relatively low relief deep water reef sites.

REEF Conservation Science Associate Lex Bryant presented a research poster describing these results, titled “Testing the Efficacy of Lionfish Traps in the Florida Keys” at the 76th Annual Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute (GCFI) Conference. She discussed the trap design and deployment strategies as well as paired design tests completed over the past few years. REEF would like to thank all of our partners for their contribution to the project. The project is funded through NOAA’s Saltonsall-Kennedy Grant Program and all activities were conducted under Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS) Permit.