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Invasive Lionfish: A Guide to Control and Management

Invasive lionfish: Background

National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science

New NOAA Manual Gives Coastal Managers Tips for Combating Invasive Lionfish

Oct. 18, 2012
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Lionfish, a native Indo-Pacific species now found in U.S. Atlantic waters from North Carolina to Florida, in all Gulf of Mexico states, and in the Caribbean, have no natural predators and are taking food and habitat from native fish that are important to local ecologies and economies.

Scientists from NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) and their partners have teamed up to create specific guidelines for coastal managers to control the spread of invasive lionfish. The new manual, Invasive Lionfish: A Guide to Control and Management, includes the best available science and practices for controlling lionfish in marine protected areas, national parks, and other conservation areas. By following suggestions in the publication, resource managers can develop effective local control plans. The guide is available for free online.

Lionfish, a native Indo-Pacific species now found in U.S. Atlantic waters from North Carolina to Florida, in all Gulf of Mexico states, and in the Caribbean, have no natural predators and are taking food and habitat from native fish that are important to local ecologies and economies. On heavily invaded reefs, lionfish are also capable of removing more than 60 percent of prey fish, some of which include economically important species like snapper and grouper.

"Most ecologists and fishery managers believe that lionfish being introduced from the Pacific to the Atlantic is one of the major ecological disasters of the last two decades," says James Morris Jr., PhD., a NOAA ecologist at the Center for Coastal Fisheries and Habitat Research in Beaufort, North Carolina. Morris, one of the nation's leading experts on invasive lionfish, is the book's editor and also authored two chapters. "What we have done is compile conventional and new ideas for lionfish control into one easily understood format."

More information on NOAA’s lionfish research programs can be found online.

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Scientists from NCCOS collaborated with many international experts from multiple partners including the Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute, Reef Environmental Education Foundation, the International Coral Reef Initiative, the University of the West Indies in Jamaica, Simon Fraser University of Vancouver, the United Nations Caribbean Environmental Program, and Mexico’s Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas, to develop the publication.

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