[Coral-List] Lionfish in the Atlantic-Snappers in the Pacific

Brett David Schumacher schumach at hawaii.edu
Wed Feb 20 01:26:35 EST 2008

I'm writing my disseration on the effect (or not) of ta`ape (Lutjanus kasmira) in Hawai`i, so I can chime in about what this introduced fish is up to. 

Relative to the effect they have on aquarium fish populations, I can sum it up quite easily and confidently: None at all.

Ta`ape do eat a few fish, but they are almost invariably Sandperches (Pinguipedidae), Dragonets (Callionymidae), or other fishes found out on the sand...and therefore away from the reef where most aquarium fish shelter.  Ta`ape are also feed primarily at night when things like yellow tang recruits (the only size a ta`ape could eat) are safely tucked into crevices in the reef.

As far as competing with the deepwater snappers, the common perception there is also much worse than reality, and the principal reason comes down to habitat segregation.  All of the native snappers except for the opakapaka (Pristipomoides filamentosus) are found deeper than ta`ape's range.  However, even the opakapaka and ta`ape segregate spatially, just on a smaller scale. Ta`ape are benthic feeders, while the opakapaka feed on plankton up in the water column, so they utilize different food sources.


Brett D. Schumacher
Hawaii Cooperative Fishery Research Unit
Department of Zoology
University of Hawaii at Manoa
2538 McCarthy Mall, Edmondson 152
Honolulu, HI 96822
PH#(808) 956-8350
FAX#(808) 956-4238

> ----- Original Message ----- 
> From: <delbeek at waquarium.org>
> To: "Szmant, Alina" <szmanta at uncw.edu>; "Douglas Fenner" 
> <dfenner at blueskynet.as>; "Craig Lilyestrom" <craig at caribe.net>; 
> "Lee 
> Goldman" <coralfarmguam at yahoo.com>
> Cc: <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>
> Sent: Tuesday, February 19, 2008 1:46 PM
> Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Lionfish in the Atlantic
> >I would think that doing some genetic work on these fish to 
> determine how
> > closely related they are would help in determining their 
> possible origin.
> > Blaming the aquarium trade for this situation is all too 
> convenient and 
> > lacks
> > any objective evidence. If these fish came from aquarium 
> releases, then 
> > one
> > would expect all these fish off the east coast to be pretty 
> closely 
> > related.
> > The sheer numbers of fish being reported indicates to me the 
> possibility 
> > of a
> > much larger breeding population as being the more likely source, 
> then a 
> > few
> > aquarium releases. Hopefully a genetic study would shed more 
> light on 
> > this??
> >
> > I don't know that gobies and blennies would be as much affected 
> as 
> > juveniles
> > that school like grunts, cardinalfish, snappers etc ... these 
> are the 
> > types of
> > fish I have seen lionfish stalking most often, not benthic species.
> >
> > Back in the 50's I think it was, the state of Hawaii imported 
> Peacock 
> > Groupers
> > (Cephalopholis argus) into Hawaii to create another food fish 
> source for
> > anglers and spear fishermen. Unfortunately, these fish are prone 
> to 
> > ciguatera
> > and so are not hunted much. Similarly, the state introduced 
> Bluestriped> snappers (Lutjanus kasmira) decades ago, which have 
> since exploded in 
> > number
> > and now are suspected of out competing local deepwater snappers 
> for food.
> > These were both mass introductions that resulted in breeding 
> populations. 
> > No
> > one has commented on how these introductions affected local fish 
> > populations,
> > especially tropical fish targeted by collectors. There have been 
> several> sightings of tropical fish in Hawaiian waters that were 
> most likely the 
> > result
> > of aquarium releases or perhaps premeditated introductions 
> (Primarily> angelfish and surgeonfish/tangs), but I don't think 
> ANY of these have 
> > exploded
> > in number or created significant breeding populations in the 
> Hawaiian 
> > Islands
> > like we are seeing off the east coast of the US with lionfish. 
> The lone
> > exception may be the Marshall Islands form of Flame angel off of 
> West 
> > Hawaii
> > but I am not 100% sure of these reports. Again, genetic work 
> might help 
> > clear
> > this up.
> >
> > At least in the state of Hawaii, to the best of my knowledge, 
> only fish 
> > that
> > were released in LARGE numbers have establish themselves in 
> significant> numbers in the Hawaiian Islands.
> >
> > Aloha!
> > J.C. Delbeek

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