Lionfish expedition: Down deep is where the big, scary ones live

Lionfish expedition: Down deep is where the big, scary ones live

The first expedition to use a deep-diving submersible to study the Atlantic Ocean lionfish invasion found something very disturbing — at 300 feet deep, there were still significant populations of these predatory fish, and they were big. Big fish can reproduce much more efficiently than their younger, smaller counterparts, and lionfish can travel. This raises significant new concerns in the effort to control this invasive species that is devastating native fish populations on the Atlantic Coast and in the Caribbean Sea.

via ScienceDaily: Ecology News:

July 11, 2013 — Last month, the first expedition to use a deep-diving submersible to study the Atlantic Ocean lionfish invasion found something very disturbing — at 300 feet deep, there were still significant populations of these predatory fish, and they were big.Big fish in many species can reproduce much more efficiently than their younger, smaller counterparts, and lionfish are known to travel considerable distances and move to various depths. This raises significant new concerns in the effort to control this invasive species that is devastating native fish populations on the Atlantic Coast and in the Caribbean Sea.”We expected some populations of lionfish at that depth, but their numbers and size were a surprise,” said Stephanie Green, the David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellow in the College of Science at Oregon State University, who participated in the dives. OSU has been one of the early leaders in the study of the lionfish invasion.”This was kind of an ‘Ah hah!’ moment,” she said. “It was immediately clear that this is a new frontier in the lionfish crisis, and that something is going to have to be done about it. Seeing it up-close really brought home the nature of the problem.”OSU participated in this expedition with researchers from a number of other universities, in work supported by Nova Southeastern University, the Guy Harvey Foundation, NOAA, and other agencies. The five-person submersible “Antipodes” was provided by OceanGate, Inc., and it dove about 300 feet deep off the coast of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., near the “Bill Boyd” cargo ship that was intentionally sunk there in 1986 to create an artificial reef for marine life.That ship has, in fact, attracted a great deal of marine life, and now, a great number of lionfish. And for that species, they are growing to an unusually large size — as much as 16 inches.Lionfish are a predatory fish that’s native to the Pacific Ocean and were accidentally introduced to Atlantic Ocean waters in the early 1990s, and there became a voracious predator with no natural controls on its population. An OSU study in 2008 showed that lionfish in the Atlantic have been known to reduce native fish populations by up to 80 percent.Eradication appears impossible, and they threaten everything from coral reef ecosystems to local economies that are based on fishing and tourism.Whatever is keeping them in check in the Pacific — and researchers around the world are trying to find out what that is — is missing here. …

For more info: Lionfish expedition: Down deep is where the big, scary ones live

ScienceDaily: Ecology News

Lionfish expedition: Down deep is where the big, scary ones live

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