[Coral-List] Lion fish question

Szmant, Alina szmanta at uncw.edu
Sun Apr 21 22:08:44 EDT 2013

My question is the following:  If Caribbean coral reefs had not been almost totally depleted of large sized native groupers, snappers, barracudas, etc, (like we used to still see in a few places the 1960s), would the lionfish have been able to establish themselves so readily?  

Also, what was the pre-lionfish trend in abundance and size frequency of the small fishes the lionfish now consume before the original large predators were overfished by humans?  I would guess that population densities of some of the smaller reef fishes that the lionfishes are now eating were elevated at the time of the invasion compared to pre-human fishing because of lack of predation on them.  

Man really disturbs a system (overfishing of Caribbean reefs, already noted extensively in the literature in the 1980s way before lionfishes were discovered on Caribbean reefs) and now tries to blame a poor IndoPacific species for the sad state of affairs of fish communities on Caribbean reefs.  How about stop totally and for a long time (forever?) all fishing for any of the fish (and invertebrate) predators on Caribbean reefs and let's see what happens to the reefs, the lionfishes and all the small reef fishes?  Wow, that would be amazing!

Dr. Alina M. Szmant
Professor of Marine Biology
Center for Marine Science and Dept of Biology and Marine Biology
University of North Carolina Wilmington
5600 Marvin Moss Ln
Wilmington NC 28409 USA
tel:  910-962-2362  fax: 910-962-2410  cell: 910-200-3913

-----Original Message-----
From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov [mailto:coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov] On Behalf Of Steve Gittings - NOAA Federal
Sent: Friday, April 19, 2013 10:40 AM
To: Steve Mussman
Cc: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Lion fish question

Has anyone really done an objective comparison of the threat posed by
lionfish to other stressors that we all agree are important?  I don't study
lionfish in any detail, but for what it's worth, my sense from the
literature and gut contents leaves me with little doubt that they are
likely to have a huge negative effect on local fish populations in parts of
the Western Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico.

On Fri, Apr 19, 2013 at 9:37 AM, Steve Mussman <sealab at earthlink.net> wrote:

>    Thanks to all who replied to the lion fish question both on and off
> list.
>    The information provided proved to be interesting and thought
> provoking. I
>    never  doubted the fact that this invasive species is problematic, but
>    concerns remain relating to several key points.
>    As one respondent put it, could we be guilty of attributing causation
> (of
>    a broader problem) to a temporal correlation? Is the proliferation of
> this
>    invasion being enhanced and exacerbated by preconditions that we prefer
> to
>    treat with comparative indifference? Why is it that we are reacting so
>    aggressively to this scourge on our reefs while continuing to ignore
> what
>    the ICRS has identified as undeniably a greater threat?  Are the
> reactions
>    that are unfolding in any way solutional?
>    These are the questions that continue to reverberate with me.
>     Regards,
>     Steve
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> Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
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Dr. Steve Gittings, Science Coordinator
NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries
1305 East West Hwy., N/ORM62
Silver Spring, MD  20910
(301) 713-7274 (w), (301) 529-1854 (c)
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