[Coral-List] Details on Lionfish in Key Largo

Lad Akins Lad at reef.org
Sun Jan 11 21:36:56 EST 2009

Dear Listers interested in the Lionfish issue,


As reported in the recent USGS alert notice (Friday, 1/9/09), the first

confirmed lionfish sighting in the Florida Keys occurred on Tuesday, Jan 6.


Our REEF/NOAA/USGS Early Detection/Rapid Response program in South Florida
has responded to 15 sightings of non-native fishes over the past 6 months.
REEF received this specific sighting report at 2:30pm on the 6th from one of

volunteer divers from South Carolina, who was diving on vacation in the

Keys. She found the fish near the base of Benwood Ledge (66') just offshore

of the Benwood wreck, Key Largo.  Via the numerous REEF media alerts and

notices, she knew the invasion of lionfish was an issue and grabbed a few

images with her digital camera to confirm the sighting.  She then took

detailed notes on the location of the fish in relation to the dive site and

upon her return to shore, contacted us to report the sighting.  Upon review

of her images, we confirmed the sighting and gathered a detailed description

of the location of the fish. Following protocols developed in a multi agency

workshop held in June of 2008, the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary

was notified and the report was forwarded to the USGS.  Response plans were

coordinated between REEF and the FKNMS and a removal team was assembled.  


The removal effort was initiated on the morning of Jan 7 and following the

extremely accurate site descriptions provided by the volunteer, the fish was

found at the same location reported.  The fish was captured alive via hand
nets by REEF staff and returned to the shore where it was euthanized in a
eugenol solution prior to dissection.  No other lionfish were observed in
the immediate vicinity.  Total time between initial report and successful
removal was less than 24 hours.


Additional information collected as part of the response effort included
site conditions, habitat characterizations, and prey community assessments.
Data on size, reproductive status, and stomach contents were gathered during
dissection and tissue samples, genetic material and otoliths were preserved
for further analysis.  


The process of early detection, verification, warning, rapid response,

habitat characterization, collection and dissection follow protocols

developed in close partnership by REEF, the NOAA Beaufort lab, USGS, Simon

Fraser University, the National Aquarium in DC, the Bermuda Aquarium and

others participating in our June workshop and in our work in the Bahamas and



We encourage development and implementation of lionfish response plans by

downstream countries in advance and in the early stages of the invasion to

include outreach/awareness, reporting, notification, coordinated response

and data gathering.  In addition, involvement of local communities and

market development (lionfish removal tournaments, lionfish as food fish,

other uses) will provide venues for education and control.


We will be conducting numerous research and control projects as well as
training and education workshops in various locations in the Caribbean and
Bahamas this year.

Anyone interested in these projects or additional lionfish information,

feel free to contact me before Jan 17 or after Feb 2.


Please continue to encourage reporting of all sightings of non-native marine
species to REEF at www.reef.org/lionfish or to the USGS at


Best Fishes,






Lad Akins

Director of Special Projects


98300 Overseas Hwy

Key Largo  FL  33037

(305) 852-0030

(305) 942-7333 cell




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