[Coral-List] Lionfish redeaux

Lad Akins Lad at reef.org
Thu Jan 30 18:47:53 EST 2014

HI Steve and Alina (and listers),
I apologize in advance for taking up email space with the continued dialogue
on lionfish but I felt a reply to recent emails was warranted.
Steve, I am glad you are engaged in this issue and Alina, you know I have
much respect for you and your work, but...come on.
No one is using lionfish as a scapegoat and this is not about drinking the
Cool-aid. Lionfish are a real and present threat and the evidence is
pointing to severe impacts in heavily invaded areas (Green et al 2012).  The
work that is coming to light is documenting, through the peer-review
process, that this is an issue we should be addressing.  No one has said
that lionfish have caused, or are the current sole cause, of declines in
snapper/grouper populations.  But looking forward, we need to be acutely
aware of this potential. Juvenile grouper and snapper are being found in
lionfish stomachs, and unlike fishermen, they are out there 24/7 and in all
habitat types. 
As far as being deceitful, none of us have ever said that grouper/snapper
would rebound if all lionfish were removed.  The current paper, does,
however, look at lionfish prey in general and how they recover when lionfish
numbers are reduced below a threshold. This is significant in that it
documents that a threshold can achieve positive results without 100%
removal.  Yes, this was done on a small scale, which is how most studies are
undertaken.  But these small patch reefs are important habitats (oasis, if
you will) and results are applicable across a broader scale.  We are
conducting research now on how effective these target thresholds and
removals are across continuous (not patch) habitats. 
Regarding alternative hypotheses put forward by Mumby, please read the more
recent paper by Hackerott et all
and the PeerJ PrePrints (https://peerj.com/preprints/139/) discussing the
two papers.  And think about it...why have lionfish put energy into evolving
long, obtrusive, venomous spines? Because they work. It is not likely that
control will come from predation on well-defended venomous lionfish (maybe
on larval stages, but even these are comparatively well protected. And the
published data show this lack of predator effect.  We also have much
unpublished data that show grouper densities far greater than those shown in
either the Mumby paper or in the Hackerott paper... and the lionfish
densities are right up there as well.  Protection of large grouper and
snapper through marine reserves and effective fishing rules and regulations
is important, but it is not going to stop the lionfish invasion or its
impacts and those grouper/snapper populations are at risk from the invasion.
Finally, none of us are ignoring the other actors affecting the health of
our oceans. We are, however, addressing a new threat that may be quite
severe.  If you think for one minute that everyone should focus solely on
climate change or overpopulation, (or whatever your personal favorite is),
then you are the ones drinking the cool-aid.  It takes all of us working on
our own parts of the issue(s) to move conservation forward.
Rather than being devise in your comments to the world, I would prefer a bit
of positive commentary.  How about "Nice work on addressing lionfish control
on patch reefs. Let's hope this translates to larger scales and provides
direction for resource managers to help protect areas of importance."  Then
feel free to add in your own. ~wouldn't it be nice if we could address
climate change, population growth, human behavior, etc.
If you feel like talking more about this, feel free to call.
All the best,
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 <http://www.REEF.org> 
Lad at REEF.org <mailto:Lad at REEF.org> 




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