Ocean Currents » lionfish http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Fri, 28 Apr 2017 22:26:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 3 Easy Ways to Stop Invasive Species http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/03/02/3-easy-ways-to-stop-invasive-species/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/03/02/3-easy-ways-to-stop-invasive-species/#comments Thu, 02 Mar 2017 14:48:26 +0000 Erin Spencer http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13813

Invasive species are a massive problem worldwide. Defined as nonnative species that become established outside of their native range, and whose introduction causes harm or is likely to cause harm, invasives can disrupt natural habitats, hurt local economies and threaten human health. Invasives cause billions of dollars of damage every year, and approximately 42% of species that are listed as Threatened or Endangered in the U.S. are at risk primarily due to invasives. Invasive species are found in practically every ecosystem in the world—including our ocean.

The good news? Everyone can help in the fight against invasive species. For Invasive Species Awareness Week, here are some easy ways you can help stop the spread of aquatic invasive species and protect the waters you love.

Don’t release your pets.

It may seem like the humane thing to set Nemo free in the ocean, but pet releases pose an enormous threat to native ecosystems. Even something as seemingly harmless as a goldfish can disrupt local food webs by preying on fish eggs and small invertebrates, cause excess algal growth by rooting up plants and releasing nutrients, and harm native fish species by spreading parasites and exotic diseases. Even the huge lionfish invasion in the Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico was likely triggered by as few as six females released in the ocean as a result of the pet trade.

Each year, nearly 150 million exotic fishes comprising 2,000 different species are imported into the U.S. for the aquarium trade. Currently, at least 185 different species of exotic fish have been caught in U.S. waters, with 75 of these known to have breeding populations. Over half of these introductions are from people releasing aquarium fish into the wild.

Keeping your pets happy and healthy and OUT of our local waterways is one of the easiest ways to prevent the spread of invasive species.

Clean, drain, dry.

There’s nothing better than spending an afternoon on the water, but be careful no hitchhikers tag along when you leave. After using your motorboat, kayak, paddle board or scuba equipment, be sure to remove any attached mud or plants. And be thorough: even tiny plant fragments could be home to larvae of invasive species! Then, drain all water from bait buckets, motors, scuba gear, waders and any other object that might house liquid. If possible, use hot or salt water to clean the equipment for maximum impact, and allow everything to dry thoroughly before using it in a new body of water. And don’t forget Fido! Dogs, horses and other pets can be perfect vehicles for small invasive species to hop from place to place.

Join removal efforts.

No matter where you live, chances are you’ll be able to find invasive species volunteer opportunities nearby. Check out your closest state or national park’s website to see if they host invasive species walks—many organize half-day hikes where you learn to identify and removal invasive plants. Some state governments, including New Hampshire, Virginia and Massachusetts, organize training programs where you can become a “Weed Warrior” and are certified to conduct removals on state property. It’s easy to combine invasive species removal with other recreation, too—you can hire guides to spearfish for lionfish, or bow hunt for snakehead, for example.

Can’t find a removal event nearby? Organize your own! Learn to identify and effectively remove invasive plants in your area (just make sure you’re not accidentally removing a native species). And if you see an unfamiliar plant or animal in your community, report it to a local environmental, state or academic group specializing in invasive species management.

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Fighting Back Against Invasive Lionfish http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/06/02/fighting-back-against-invasive-lionfish/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/06/02/fighting-back-against-invasive-lionfish/#comments Thu, 02 Jun 2016 20:00:12 +0000 Andres Jimenez http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12181

Invasive lionfish are a massive problem that requires creative solutions. One of the most popular approaches to lionfish management is the lionfish derby: An all-day fishing competition where teams collect as many lionfish as possible to compete for prizes. Often, the events bring together local communities in the evening to learn about (and snack on!) lionfish.

In May, Ocean Conservancy was thrilled to help sponsor the 2016 Sebastian Lionfish Fest hosted by Indian River County, Florida. I sat down with Kendra Cope, Indian River County’s coastal environmental specialist and sea turtle coordinator, to learn more about her efforts.

OC: What inspired you to host this event on lionfish? 

Kendra: Lionfish have been seen in all coastal waters inside Indian River County, Florida (IRC) jurisdiction, including our local estuary the Indian River Lagoon. Lionfish are known predators of recreational and economically important Florida native fish like red snapper and grouper and have been observed along the county’s natural nearshore wormrock reefs and constructed artificial reefs.

This area also has a niche for those who love fresh, local, delicious foods. The area is home to many first class chefs who enjoy crafting dishes with new flavors. All of this created a great foundation for the food, fun, and educational outreach provided by the inaugural Sebastian Lionfish Fest.

OC: What are your favorite highlights from the day? 

Kendra: I was thrilled that our event featured ten coastal educational booths, including Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the Vero Beach Marine Lab, who did lionfish stomach extractions for research and filleting demonstrations for the public. The crowds surrounded them right through the event.

We were expecting only around 200-300 people to show up, but to our surprise over 400 people came. It was the first time for quite a few folks to not only learn about the devastating impacts of the lionfish invasion but also taste the fish.

The biggest highlight for me was the number of lionfish removed as a result of this event. An estimated 1,800 lionfish was removed from Florida waters as a result of the cook-off, lionfish donated for research and taken during the fishing derby tournament!

OC: What came as the biggest surprise? 

Kendra: Our biggest surprise was the number of locals interested in being a part of the new lionfish invasion management strategy. Once people heard about how bad lionfish were, they were more than happy to help. Since the event, two local restaurants have served lionfish dishes and we believe many more will as the fishing conditions improve throughout the summer.

OC: In the meantime, is there anything you’d like to share with other coastal communities facing the same challenge? 

Kendra: My advice is to connect with local dive shops or businesses and encourage lionfish fishing tours—an idea we would like to get started here at IRC. Also, head to waterfront restaurants and see if the chef would be interested in serving a delicate delicious new fish. As Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says, “The only way to beat ‘em is to eat ‘em.”

On behalf of Indian River County I would like to thank: FWC, Ocean Conservancy, McKim and Creed, CB&I, Ecological Associates Inc., North Beach Civic Association, Sebastian Inlet District, Deep Six, Sandpiper Pest Control, Capp Custom Builders, Blue Lion Bar, Keep Florida Fishing and CSA Ocean Sciences. Also, a huge thank you to the restaurants who participated in the cook-off: Citrus Grillhouse, Captain Hiram’s, Mulligans Beach House, Kountry Kitchen, Costa D’ Este and Old Fish House. Lastly, thanks to the planning committee: Captain Hiram’s, Sebastian River Area Chamber of Commerce, MN Worldwide, Keep Indian River Beautiful and IRC.


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Lionfish: A Crash Course http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/03/17/lionfish-a-crash-course/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/03/17/lionfish-a-crash-course/#comments Thu, 17 Mar 2016 22:29:28 +0000 Erin Spencer http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11680

There’s big news in the fight against invasive lionfish. This week, Representative Carlos Curbelo of Florida’s 26th District introduced a bill that would make more funding available for researchers studying lionfish in their invaded range. The bill directs the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to award $1,500,000 in higher education grants to combat lionfish, including projects that help us learn about lionfish impacts and how to mitigate them.

In honor of this newly-introduced bill, we pulled together a refresher course on the lionfish invasion. Read on to see how lionfish are impacting the ecosystem (and what people are doing about it!)

Where are lionfish from?

Originally from the Indo-Pacific, lionfish were introduced off the coast of South Florida in the mid-1980s and have since become one of the most prolific invasive marine species in the world. They can now be found on coral reefs, shipwrecks, mangroves, seagrass beds and hard ocean bottoms throughout the western Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico.

Why are lionfish a problem?

Lionfish are the “Hoover vacuums of the sea”, and dense lionfish populations can consume up to 460,000 prey fish per acre per year. Lionfish consume over 70 different species of fish and invertebrates, some of which are ecologically and economically important in the invaded range, including juvenile grouper and snapper. With no natural predators in the invaded range and very high breeding rates (one female can spawn over 2 million eggs per year!), lionfish have spread rapidly and their range continues to expand.

Distinguished by their bold stripes and spines, lionfish are a favorite in the aquarium industry. But be careful — their spines are venomous, and contain a strong neurotoxin that can cause extreme pain and swelling if injected.

What are people doing about lionfish?

Fortunately, people are fighting back. Consistent local removal efforts can greatly reduce lionfish populations, allowing native fish to rebound. The Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) launched a series of lionfish derbies, or all-day fishing competitions, to help decrease numbers while raising awareness about the problem. This model has been replicated in many places throughout the invaded range, and also helps provide samples for research by bringing in large amounts of fish.

Lionfish are also delicious, and many people are adopting the “gotta eat ‘em to beat ‘em” mentality. Their white, buttery meat lends itself to any number of different recipes, and many restaurants throughout the Caribbean and southern United States are featuring lionfish on their menus to promote awareness while satisfying customers.

There is still much we can learn about lionfish to help research efforts. Representative Curbelo’s bill will help us mitigate the impacts of lionfish and work towards a healthier ocean.

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The Ocean’s Least Wanted: 4 Invasive Species to Know http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/02/24/the-oceans-least-wanted-4-invasive-species-to-know/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/02/24/the-oceans-least-wanted-4-invasive-species-to-know/#comments Wed, 24 Feb 2016 14:30:37 +0000 Erin Spencer http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11542

This week we are diving into one of the biggest conservation threats worldwide: invasive species. Defined as organisms that have been introduced into an area where they aren’t native and are negatively impacting the ecosystem, the economy and/or human health, invasive species account for $1.4 trillion in damage annually. In the United States alone, 42% of Threatened and Endangered Species are at risk due to invasives.

Some marine invasive species hitchhike on ships or in ballast water, while others are intentionally released by well-meaning but misguided aquarium owners. Regardless of how they arrive, marine invasive species put both ecosystems and economies at risk. And in a time of massive global trade where 45,000 cargo ships move more than 10 billion tons of ballast water worldwide each year, conditions are ripe for invasive species to spread.

In honor of National Invasive Species Awareness Week, we’re delving into some marine invasives that are wreaking havoc in their non-native environments. Here are four marine invasive species you should know:

Lionfish: Armed and Delicious

Originally from the Indo-Pacific, lionfish were introduced off the coast of South Florida in the mid-1980s and have since become one of the most prolific invasive marine species in the world. Lionfish are the “Hoover vacuums of the sea,” and dense lionfish populations can consume up to 460,000 prey fish per acre per year. With no natural predators in the invaded range and very high breeding rates (one female can spawn over 2 million eggs per year!), lionfish are a huge threat to native fish in the Western Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. To top it off, they have a series of venomous spines that cause extreme pain and swelling if injected.

Fortunately, people are fighting back. Consistent local removal efforts can greatly reduce lionfish populations, allowing native fish to rebound. Lionfish are also delicious, and many restaurants are adopting the “gotta eat ‘em to beat ‘em” mentality by serving the fish on their menus.

European green crab: Small but mighty

This pesky invader is bad news for the shellfish industry. Hailing from the European coast and Northern Africa, European green crabs made their invasive debut off Cape Cod in the 1800s, likely through seafood shipments or ballast water. They now have established populations on five continents, and are prolific on both U.S. Atlantic and Pacific coasts. European green crabs thrive in their invaded range — they will practically try to eat anything their size or smaller, and one crab can consume three-dozen small mussels a day. They’re expertly skilled at digging up and cracking young clams and oysters, and are suspected to be primarily responsible for shutting down commercial clam harvesting in some of Maine.

Management strategies include chemical control and trapping and removal programs. Some states have also tried netting juvenile clams to protect them from these voracious predators.

Northern Pacific seastar: Beautiful but deadly 

Don’t let looks deceive you: This seastar may be pretty, but it’s a deadly predator. As its name suggests, they originate from the northern Pacific region off the coasts of China, North Korea, South Korea, Russia and Japan, and can now be found in southern Australia, the U.S. and Europe. They will eat almost anything they can get their arms on, including a variety of bivalves, mollusks, crustaceans and other echinoderms. This has massive implications for the economy—northern Pacific seastars are credited with an estimated billion dollar loss in the fishing industry in Tasmania. Their massive appetite combined lead northern Pacific seastars to be named one of the world’s 100 worst invasive species. For now, people rely on physical removal and the use of traps to control their populations.

Killer algae: Mean and green

The name says it all. This algae was originally from the Indian and Pacific oceans and bred for the aquarium trade, where its attractive color and hardy nature made it a favorite of hobbyists around the world. It ultimately escaped and spread throughout the Mediterranean, likely aided through aquariums dumping their tank water into local waterways. The algae quickly forms dense meadows that crowd out native algae and seagrasses, restricting food and habitat for marine life and causing immense ecological harm. To top it off, it’s highly toxic to native herbivores, so control through grazing is practically nonexistent. One study showed that native urchins would rather starve than feed on the algae.

Although there isn’t a widespread management strategy, a California outbreak was stopped by applying herbicide and covering the impacted area with a tarp.

Did we miss any must-know invasive species? Let us know in the comments below!

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Wrangling Invasive Species in Cajun Tennis Shoes http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/09/27/wrangling-invasive-species-in-cajun-tennis-shoes/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/09/27/wrangling-invasive-species-in-cajun-tennis-shoes/#comments Thu, 27 Sep 2012 21:27:21 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=3076

Credit: peternijenhuis flickr stream

If I were to tell you there’s a rodeo for hunting invasive species, or that I feed my dog treats made of swamp rats, you’d probably think I have my Cajun tennis shoes (shrimp boots) on too tight. But if you go to just one of these events, you’d immediately see the innovation and creativity that is put into eradicating and raising awareness of invasive species…and that my boots fit just fine.

Rio Grande Cichlids, Nutria Rats, and Lionfish are among an already too long and growing list of invasive species that now call the Gulf Coast home. If these species don’t sound familiar, think Kudzu – the vine that ate the south. These unwelcome visitors, introduced accidentally or purposely, out-compete native species for space and resources. But the Gulf Coast is not the only area fighting invasive species; The West Coast of North America is currently grappling with debris from the Japanese tsunami and the hitchhiking creatures washing up with it.

As invasive species do what they do best, invade, the general public is joining the fight – along with governmental agencies, scientists, and environmentalists – to raise awareness of the need to remove these species and keep them from being introduced in the first place. Well, now that you’ve been through Invasive Species 101, here’s your prize: an explanation of the events I mentioned earlier.

Both Righteous Fur and Marsh Dog received a small grant from the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program to kick-start their projects, both of which have taken off. Nutriapalooza is a fashion show featuring nutria rat fur put on by Righteous Fur, whose tagline is “Save Our Wetlands: Wear More Nutria.” Their goal is to help control a destructive invasive species, raise public awareness about the need to restore the vanishing coast, and provide a stylish, eco-friendly alternative to traditional fur. But before you say “Eww! Fur!!” I encourage you to keep an open mind and visit their website.

Marsh Dog is an innovative market-based approach to solve the invasive nutria problem with dog biscuits made from nutria meat. Marsh Dog says “Owners can treat their dogs to an all-natural, sustainable treat that tastes good and does good while helping to support the fight to conserve…coastal wetlands.” My pound puppy loves them.

The Nutria Rodeo is an event created by Sassafras Louisiana to help put a dent in the nutria rat population. (Yes, there is a nutria rat hunting season in Louisiana). The organization is meant to bring the youth together in the restoration and preservation of Louisiana. Yes, you read that right, youth lead by other youths. I’d bet my last crawfish one of these young adults will have an address at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington one day.

The Rio Grande Cichlid Rodeo is a fishing tournament organized by Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries designed to help reduce the number of invasive Rio Grande Cichlids in New Orleans.

While these are a few of my favorite events in Louisiana, there are probably events like these near you. I encourage you to participate in something local and to learn what you can do about the growing threat of tsunami debris.

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