[Coral-List] Lion fish question

George Sedberry - NOAA Federal george.sedberry at noaa.gov
Mon Apr 22 14:36:05 EDT 2013

Thanks, Lad, for this thoughtful response.  In the Atlantic off the
southeast U.S., it seems that vermilion snapper, Rhomboplites aurorubens,
is a significant part of the biomass of the "wall of mouths".  These fish
stack up over hard-bottom reefs and pick plankton, including larval fishes
(some scorpaeniform).  At the shelf-edge, they pick oceanic plankton that
comes over the edge in Gulf Stream eddies, and over shelf reefs and
elsewhere they pick a lot of nocturnally active plankton.  Perhaps they eat
lionfish larvae.  It is noteworthy that vermilion snapper were overfished
and undergoing overfishing in 2002, when lionfish began their massive
invasion off the coast of the Carolinas, and have been undergoing
overfishing since then through the 2008 assessment.  Recent status of stock
reports indicate it is no longer overfished or undergoing overfishing.
 Maybe the recovery of vermilion snapper will help knock down lionfish
populations here.


On Mon, Apr 22, 2013 at 11:44 AM, Lad Akins <Lad at reef.org> wrote:

> Hello Steve and all,
> I feel like this is a conversation that has occurred repeatedly and has
> had some very good answers put forward.  Maybe you haven't seen them
> (please read through the literature) or maybe you just disagree (which is
> fine). In either case, I thought I'd respond one more time, then leave this
> alone.
> Top predator control of lionfish is not likely the controlling factor in
> any location - including native range.  For almost all species, mortality
> is highest in the egg, larval and early juvenile stages.  We're not talking
> about sharks or big grouper here.  Planktivores and smaller predatory
> carnivores are more likely  controlling factors.  Trying to pin the control
> of lionfish on the recovery of large predators seems misguided.  Think
> about why lionfish have evolved those formidable 10+cm venomous spines
> across their backs.  To deter predation.  If it did not work, do you think
> they would have evolved in that manner?  Will any top predator ever consume
> a lionfish? Certainly.  Things eat other things in the ocean.  Will this be
> a common occurrence? Unlikely, when the cost of trying to consume a
> venomous, well defended lionfish is potentially (likely) injurious.
> There are also other differences.  Native lionfish territory is home to
> many, many more species and families of fish not found in the Western
> Atlantic.  Lionfish eggs and larvae would have to make it through an
> incredible "wall of mouths" as Billy Causey likes to call it.  Compare that
> to reef environments in the Western Atlantic and this invaded range looks
> depauperate. Lack of parasites, unusual reproductive strategy, prey
> naivete, etc are also part of the issue.  The list is a common list when we
> talk about invasions.
> Why are some people investing their energies in lionfish control
> (including your customers - the diving public)?  Because studies are
> showing the impacts are lionfish are having on native marine life are
> considerable and that control can be effective in reducing those impacts.
>  Steve, you own a dive business.  Do you think your customers will want to
> dive a reef which has declined in its population of small, colorful reef
> fish by 95% over just two years? (read Green et al 2012).  What if they
> could invest time and energy in helping to cull lionfish from that reef and
> witness a comeback in native fish populations?  Well, that is exactly what
> is happening in many places around the region and why many people are
> working on this.  These people are not delusional.  Local control can be
> effective at minimizing impacts and allowing recovery.
> If you would like to sit back and let nature take its course, that's fine..
>  No one is asking you to drop what you are doing and go lionfish hunting.
>  But trying to convince others that this effort is a waste of time and that
> they are deluded is counter-productive to what we know is working,
> especially in areas of high priority like MPAs, nursery grounds, dive
> sites, etc.
> I would offer the following regarding restoration of the ecosystem... it
> is not going to be acropora restoration, it is not going to be ending
> overfishing, it is not going to be reducing carbon footprints, it is not
> going to be stopping development and it is not going to be controlling
> lionfish that will help the ecosystem function more effectively.  It is
> going to be a combination of all of these things and many more, which is
> why there are many people working on many different marine related issues..
>  They all matter.  And when we find something that we can do, like lionfish
> control, coral restoration, implementing effective MPAs, etc. then good for
> us.
> I applaud the current efforts of those around the region who are working
> hard at lionfish removals and witnessing the effectiveness of those
> removals.  I also applaud and encourage research into new lionfish control
> tools and technologies and I encourage those who are working on better
> understanding the lionfish invasion, the biology ecology of the fish and
> the impacts they are having. I respect the choices of those who chose not
> to engage in lionfish removals, but I find it hard to understand opinions
> that denounce efforts to address what we know is a grave threat to our
> environment.  We should all be supporting effective conservation efforts
> wherever they occur.
> I apologize to listers for filling up inboxes and am more than willing to
> take this off-line via phone or email.
> All the best,
> Lad
> **************************
> Lad Akins
> Director of Special Projects
> P O Box 370246
> 98300 Overseas Hwy
> Key Largo FL 33037
> (305) 852-0030 w
> (305) 942-7333 c
> www.REEF.org
> Lad at REEF.org
> -----Original Message-----
> From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov [mailto:
> coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov] On Behalf Of Steve Mussman
> Sent: Saturday, April 20, 2013 3:37 PM
> To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> Subject: [Coral-List] Lion fish question
>    Pardon the redundancy, but I feel compelled to follow up in the hope
> that
>    some listers might consider alternative hypotheticals. Iâll keep it
> brief.
>      * Is  it  possible  that a primary factor related to the density and
>        proliferation of lion fish populations throughout the Caribbean
> {when
>        compared  to  native  ranges}  might  be  the relative scarcity of
>        higher-level,  larger  predatory fish such as sharks, grouper, and
>        snapper?
>      * Has anyone compared the relative total biomass of higher-level
> predators
>        on the Caribbean reefs where lion fish are now found with that of
> the
>        native Indo-Pacific ranges where anomalous controls are not
> required?
>      * Is it reasonable to at least theorize that the best case scenario
> for
>        effectively keeping invasive lion fish populations in check would
> be one
>        that encompasses a strategy for overall coral reef recovery
> including
>        the  related re-emergence of a greater number of potential natural
>        predators?
>      * In the spirit of full disclosure, I raise these questions because it
>        appears to me as if many in my industry are deluding themselves by
>        focusing reef conservation efforts on this particular issue. Its
> good
>        for business and thatâs a positive, but there needs to be an
> awareness
>        that the implementation of currently advocated mitigation strategies
>        will not miraculously  restore once healthy coral reef ecosystems.
> In
>        the end we canât continue to ignore the eight-hundred-pound gorilla
>        sitting squarely upon the Acropora palmata.
>       Regards,
>        Steve
>    www.sea-lab.com
> http://www.news-press.com/article/20120514/GREEN/305140006/Are-predators-eat
>    ing-lionfish-
>    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pazS-13gzVE&feature=youtu.be
>    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Hkan5JHUA0
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George R. Sedberry, Ph.D.
Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary
10 Ocean Science Circle
Savannah GA  31411

Office:  912 598 2439
Mobile:  912 308 5193

Email:  george.sedberry at noaa.gov

Gray's Reef web site:  www.graysreef.noaa.gov

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