Part I: Covering New Ground (audio)
Part II: Controlling the Spread (audio)
Lionfish on the Loose (video)
Lionfish, a native Indo-Pacific species, is now found in U.S. Atlantic waters from North Carolina to Florida, in all Gulf of Mexico states, and in the Caribbean, and continues to expand into new regions. Recent estimates of lionfish densities indicate that lionfish have surpassed some native species with the highest estimates reporting over 1,000 lionfish per acre in some locations. Lionfish have no natural predators and are taking food and habitat from native fish that are important to local economies and ecosystems.
Join us for a Tweetchat with Dr. James Morris as we explore the lionfish invasion. During the Tweetchat, you can learn why lionfish have been so successful in invading new areas and what scientists and the public are doing to address this growing problem. Get your questions ready and tune in on November 14 for our Tweetchat on The Lionfish Invasion.
This Tweetchat occured on November 14, 2013. An archive of the Tweetchat is available online.
Dr. James Morris is an ecologist with the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science. Dr. Morris has a bachelor’s and master’s of science in biology from East Carolina University and a PhD in biology from North Carolina State University. His research focus includes invasive species and aquaculture. James has been researching lionfish since 2001. Read more about James in his People of NOS Profile.
You can also listen to James Morris in our special two-part Diving Deeper audio podcast from May 2013 to learn about the spread of lionfish and what scientists are doing to try to address this growing problem.
In 2013, scientists from the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science and their partners, released a manual for coastal managers to help research and control the spread of invasive lionfish. The free manual, available in three languages, presents the best available science and practices for controlling lionfish in marine protected areas, national parks, and other conservation areas. NOAA is also working with coastal managers in the U.S. and abroad to develop regional strategies and control plans to reduce lionfish impacts.
Here are answers to a few additional questions received following the Nov. 14 Tweetchat.
Q: Do lionfish pose a threat to humans?
A: Lionfish stings are rarely deadly to humans, but can cause significant pain, swelling, and many other reactions.
Q: Are there recipes for lionfish dishes?
A: Yes, you can explore the North Carolina Sea Grant websites for recipe ideas.
Q: Do lionfish taste good?
A: Yes, lionfish taste very good! Learn more about the nutritional value of invasive lionfish meat online.
Q: Is the increase in the range of lionfish a concern?
A: Lionfish are expanding their range and population density is a big problem. They are impacting our reef fish communities and fishermen everywhere.
Q: Does the range of lionfish extend up the East Coast to Massachusetts?
A: No. Lionfish cannot overwinter north of North Carolina. While juveniles may be found in New England in the fall, they will die in the winter similar to other tropical species.
Q: Has there been any research collaboration with scientists studying the native Indo-Pacific lionfish for potential solutions?
A: Yes, there is some research underway, however there are no obvious population controls emerging in the Indo-Pacific region.
Q: Are there any key differences on reefs where lionfish are controlled to offer insight on potential control efforts?
A: No obvious differences yet. We still need more research.
Q: Why is recruitment of lionfish to the reef fauna so efficient?
A: The lionfish is a reef fish and juveniles seek reefs during settlement.
Q: What methods are successful in containing the lionfish population?
A: Lionfish can be controlled locally by physical removal such as trapping, fishing, or diver removals. There are no known ways to eradicate lionfish completely.