[Coral-List] Lionfish in the Atlantic

delbeek at waquarium.org delbeek at waquarium.org
Tue Feb 19 13:46:07 EST 2008

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.

J.C. Delbeek

Disclaimer: The above is just my opinion and does necessarily reflect those of
my employer.

"Szmant, Alina" <szmanta at uncw.edu> said:

> The lion fish here off of NC are everywhere offshore.  And I saw a dive
> article about there abundance elsewhere in Caribbean.  They are
> definitely established in the Atlantic, and can now be considered
> invasive.  They'll probably have a major effect on small reef fishes
> such as gobies and blennies.
> *******************************************************************
> Dr. Alina M. Szmant
> Coral Reef Research Group
> UNCW-Center for Marine Science 
> 5600 Marvin K. Moss Ln
> Wilmington NC 28409
> Tel: (910)962-2362 & Fax:  (910)962-2410
> Cell:  (910)200-3913
> email:  szmanta at uncw.edu
> Web Page:  http://people.uncw.edu/szmanta
> ******************************************************************
> -----Original Message-----
> From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> [mailto:coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov] On Behalf Of Douglas
> Fenner
> Sent: Monday, February 18, 2008 10:07 PM
> To: Craig Lilyestrom; Lee Goldman
> Cc: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Live coral trade - Philippine exports
> Good point.  Currently, several Pacific fish species are being found in 
> Florida and elsewhere, particularly Lionfish, and the numbers of the
> latter 
> at least indicate that the genie is out of the bottle, it sounds to me
> like 
> an introduced species that is going to be invasive.  They were released
> by 
> people from their aquariums into the ocean.  I hear from aquarium people
> that there are a variety of diseases and parasites that show up in
> aquaria, 
> including coral diseases I believe.  I could easily imagine a disease or
> parasite, say on coral, coming from the Pacific, being released from an 
> aquarium in Florida, and having potentially severe effects there and 
> throughout the Caribbean.  Doesn't seem too far fetched.  -Doug

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