November 15, 2009
Photo Credit: Maine Maritime Academy
In mid-November, PIMS welcomed back Oregon State University researchers Mark Albins and Tim Pusack, who returned to Lee Stocking Island to continue their studies focusing on the invasive Indo-Pacific lionfish. Also known by its common name red lionfish (Pterois volitans), this invasive fish species was first spotted in the Exumas by in 2005; since then, the population has increased exponentially. The beautiful lionfish is a popular aquarium species, and it is thought that their introduction to Atlantic waters originated through the release of aquarium specimens in south Florida during Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
Early experiments have found that lionfish are voracious eaters of native fishes, reducing new recruit populations on certain study sites by up to 85% over a five-week period. With few if any natural predators (there have been occasional sightings of lionfish being eaten by large groupers), there is widespread concern that the rapidly expanding lionfish population will dramatically reduce native fish populations in the coming years, including the juveniles of grouper, snapper and other commercially important species in the Bahamas.
Photo Credit: http://www.oar.noaa.gov/spotlite/archive/2009/images/mark_observingFish.jpg
Mark and Tim work under the direction of Dr. Mark Hixon of Oregon State University. For more information about their recent lionfish research, see the NOAA spotlight article Lionfish Invasion: Super Predator Threatens Caribbean Coral Reefs as well as the NPR article Spreading Lionfish Invasion Threatens Bahamas.
Also, OSU research assistant Emily Pickering detailed her experience living and working on LSI last summer with the team of researchers as an undergraduate marine biology student. You can view her stories and photos at "A Chronicle of the Invasion."
For more information about the Perry Institute for Marine Science's research programs, visit: http://www.perryinstitute.org/research/.