Fish

Attraction of settlement-stage coral reef fishes to reef noise

We compared catches of settlement-stage reef fishes in light traps attached to underwater speakers playing reef sounds with those of silent traps during a summer recruitment season at Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Of the total 40191 reef fishes we collected, significantly more (67%; Wilcoxon and Binomial tests: p< 0.001) appeared in the traps with broadcast reef noise. Traps deployed with speakers consistently caught a greater diversity of species (Wilcoxon test: p< 0.001, total 81 vs 68) than did silent traps. This study provides a clear demonstration that the settlement-stages of a broad range of families of coral reef fishes are attracted to reef sounds

Date
2004
Data type
Scientific article
Theme
Research and monitoring

Non-native, invasive red lionfish (Pterois volitans), is first recorded in the southern Gulf of Mexico, off the northern Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

We recorded the first sighting and collection of the non-native, invasive red lionfish (Pterois volitans [Linnaeus, 1758]: Scorpaenidae) in the southern Gulf of Mexico, off the northern Yucatan Peninsula. In December 2009, two individuals were sighted (one of them speared) at 38 m depth over a reef formation, about 58 km northwest of the Alacranes Reef National Park, which is located 130 km off the northern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico. More than 20 years after the introduction of P. volitans into the western Atlantic, specifically off the Florida and North Carolina coasts, the invasion circuit now appears to be closing in, since this new record was made about 800 km from the Dry Tortugas and Marquesas, Florida. This recording appears to be the first introgression of the P. volitans population into the Gulf of Mexico via larval transport. 

Date
2010
Data type
Scientific article
Theme
Research and monitoring

Indo-Pacific lionfish are larger and more abundant on invaded reefs: a comparison of Kenyan and Bahamian lionfish populations

The invasion by Indo-Pacific lionfish (Pterois volitans and P. miles) of the western Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico is emerging as a major threat to coral reef communities across the region. Comparing native and introduced populations of invasive species can reveal shifts in ecology and behaviour that can accompany successful invasions. Using standardized field surveys replicated at multiple sites in Kenya and the Bahamas, we present the first direct comparisons of lionfish density, body size, biomass and behaviour between native and invaded coral reefs. We found that lionfish occur at higher densities with larger body sizes and total biomass on invaded Bahamian coral reefs than the ecologically equivalent species (P. miles) does on native Kenyan reefs. However, the combined average density of the five lionfish species (Pterois miles, P. antennata, P. radiata, Dendrochirus brachypterus and D. zebra) on Kenyan reefs was similar to the density of invasive lionfish in the Bahamas. Understanding the ecological processes that drive these differences can help inform the management and control of invasive lionfish.

Date
2011
Data type
Scientific article
Theme
Research and monitoring

A stage-based matrix population model of invasive lionfish with implications for control

The rapid invasion of lionfish into the Western North Atlantic and Caribbean will undoubtedly affect native reef fishes via processes such as trophic disruption and niche takeover, yet little is known about the dynamics of this invasion. We constructed a stage-based, matrix population model in which matrix elements were comprised of lower-level parameters. Lionfish vital rates were estimated from existing literature and from new field and laboratory studies. Sensitivity analysis of lower-level parameters revealed that population growth rate is most influenced by larval mortality; elasticity analysis of the matrix indicated strong influence of the adult and juvenile survival elements. Based on this model, approximately 27% of an invading adult lionfish population would have to be removed monthly for abundance to decrease. Hierarchical modeling indicated that this point estimate falls within a broad uncertainty interval which could result from imprecise estimates of life-history parameters. The model demonstrated that sustained removal efforts could be substantially more effective by targeting juveniles as well as adults.

Date
2011
Data type
Scientific article
Theme
Governance
Research and monitoring

Baseline surveys of Lac Bay benthic and fish communities, Bonaire

Findings:

The main conclusion of this study is that the shallow, warm and saline back-water habitat which is continuing to increase in importance within Lac Bay is unable to support meaningful mangroves, seagrass or algal meadows, nor the key nursery species. As the natural process of land reclamation by mangroves carries on, the bay’s important nursery habitats will come under additional salinity stress and likely continue to decrease in coverage and quality at an accelerated rate.

Distribution of sea grass and algal beds in Lac Bay

  • The valuable seagrass and mangrove habitats of Lac are currently trapped in an enclosed bay.
  • High light-intensity and well-circulated shallow habitats that fringed the mangroves of the central bay have the richest assemblages with the highest biotic coverage.
  • Isolated mangrove pools have the lowest total cover, species richness and biodiversity of all habitats.
  • Biotic diversity and cover decrease towards the deeper parts of the bay.
  • There is an alarmingly rapid invasion of the bay by the invasive seagrass H. stipulacea.

Fish species utilization of contrasting habitats in Lac Bay

  • Fish community variables differ consistently among habitats and are influenced by the percent cover of seagrass vegetation or presence of mangrove-root structure.
  • Mangrove fringe habitats are a premier habitat since multiple life stages of a variety of species showed highest densities there. Mangrove fringing open waters had highest overall fish densities and species diversity.
  • The various vegetated sub-habitats all play a unique role for different size-classes of different fish species. 

Management Recommendations:

  • Management action is needed to stem further erosion of nursery habitat quality and ensure that a tipping-point is not reached beyond which recovery may be difficult or impossible.
  • Measures should be taken to help restore water depth and circulation to relieve the bay’s ecosystem of thermal and salinity stress caused by the shallow backwaters. This includes excavating accumulated erosional and biogenic sediments as well as dredging to restore former feeder channels by removal of mangrove overgrowth (as already started by Stinapa).
  • Further studies to assess the impacts of the invasive seagrass H. stipulacea on the bay’s flora and fauna.
Date
2012
Data type
Research report
Theme
Research and monitoring
Report number
C129/12
Geographic location
Bonaire

St. Maarten Nature Foundation Lionfish Response Plan

This document serves as a reference for the controlling and management of the invasive Indo-Pacific lionfish (Pterois miles and P. volitans complex). Lionfish are expected in St. Maarten waters in the near future and can have serious detrimental affects to the island’s marine environment, particularly to the populations of both ecologically and economically important fish species. Coral reef ecosystems can also experience degradation due to predatory stress caused by lionfish on coral reef grazers such as parrotfish (Scaridae).

The invasive lionfish also poses a threat to public health; the species has fourteen venomous spines over the length of its body which can inflict a painful sting. Particularly vulnerable to lionfish envenomations are those stakeholders of the Marine Park who have the potential of coming in close contact with the species such as fishers and divers. Recreational beach goers also face the potential of being envenomated. Envenomations can be particularly dangerous to infants, the elderly, individuals with a compromised immune system and those sensitive to the venom.

Due to the nature of the invasion of aquatic species in general and lionfish more specifically, it must be realized that a complete eradication of the species is impossible, therefore this plan will seek to actively manage lionfish in St. Maarten territorial waters. The goals and objectives of this management plan are to adequately control the impact the species will have on the ecosystem level and with regards to the risk it poses to the community and to the local economy. Management goals and objectives are coordinated and communicated with different agencies to ensure local and regional cooperation, education of and outreach to stakeholders, research and management option development on the nature of the infestation, and a species control mechanism which will seek to limit the effects of species arrival.

Management actions should be clear in both the management of the species on a local level and contributing species information on a regional and international level. Management actions in this plan are divided into two stages; pre species arrival and post species arrival actions. Actions within the two stages can belong to phase one management actions, which are the first actions to be implemented, or phase two actions, which follow phase 1 actions and are continuous. Some management actions belong to both phase one and phase two management actions. The proposed management actions for the controlling of lionfish in St. Maarten waters include education and outreach on the nature and threats of the invasion, coordination with other agencies and organizations on management options, infestation research and development such as stomach content analysis and genetic sampling, planning and assessment in the form of lionfish action protocols and lionfish sweeps, and specimen control mechanisms such as species collection and eventual culling.

Appreciation is expressed to all those who assisted with technical support regarding this Response Plan, particularly the insight gained from the St. Eustatius Lionfish Action Plan (Bervoets 2009), on which this document is based, during the Lionfish Workshop hosted by the Bonaire National Marine Park in cooperation with the Reef Environmental Education Foundation and funded by the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance, and various workshops given by Chris Flook of the Bermuda Museum and Zoo. 

Date
2010
Data type
Research report
Theme
Governance
Research and monitoring
Geographic location
St. Maarten
Author

An age-based demographic analysis of the Caribbean stoplight parrotfish Sparisoma viride

The parrotfish Sparisoma viride is an abundant and ecologically important member of the tropical NW Atlantic reef fish fauna. Sagittal otoliths of 417 individuals were analysed to estimate age-based demographic variables at 4 localities (Lee Stocking Island, Barbados, Los Roques Archipelago and the San Blas Archipelago) spanning 14° of latitude. The sampling localities ranged from an area protected from trap- and net-based reef fisheries (Los Roques) to an area supporting a dense human population and sustained trapping and spearing for reef fishes including S. viride (Barbados). Examination of sectioned sagittal otoliths from each locality revealed regular increments in the sagittal matrix. A preliminary validation at San Blas was consistent with these increments being annual check marks. These increments provided estimates of age structure, maximum longevities and mortality rates for the 4 study populations of S. viride. Von Bertalanffy growth functions fitted to each size-at-age plot generated similar growth curves from 3 of these 4 localities. The exception was Lee Stocking, where fish grew faster and reached a substantially larger size than those from the other 3 localities. Further analysis of the growth curves demonstrated that the differences between Lee Stocking and the other localities were attributable to more rapid growth over the first 4 yr of life. Age-based growth curves derived from the Los Roques population were very similar to a size-based curve generated by an independent study on S. viride carried out in Bonaire, adjacent to Los Roques. Maximum longevities for all 4 of our populations varied from 7 to 9 yr. Mortality rates generated from catch curve analysis were also similar among localities and suggest that maximum life spans do not exceed 12 yr. This result differs from that obtained at Bonaire, where repeated censuses of tagged fish suggest 30 yr maximum longevity. Abundances of S. viride varied 3-fold among localities, being highest at Los Roques (protected from reef fishing), lowest at Barbados (high fishing) and Lee Stocking (low fishing). Thus our age-based study suggests that S. viride is a relatively short-lived fish with consistent demographic parameters over a range of localities, latitudes and fishing intensities. 

Date
2003
Data type
Scientific article
Theme
Research and monitoring
Geographic location
Bonaire

Biodiversity Assessment of the Fishes of Saba Bank Atoll, Netherlands Antilles

Abstract:

Biodiversity surveys were conducted on Saba Bank, Netherlands Antilles, to assess ichthyofaunal richness and to compare with published surveys of other Caribbean localities. The primary objective was to estimate the total species richness of the Saba Bank ichthyofauna. A variety of sampling techniques was utilized to survey the fish species of both the visually accessible megafauna and the camouflaged and small-sized species comprising the cryptic ichthyofauna. Based on results presented herein, the number of species known on Saba Bank is increased from 42 previously known species to 270 species. Expected species-accumulation curves demonstrate that the current estimate of species richness of fishes for Saba Bank under represents the actual richness, and our knowledge of the ichthyofauna has not plateaued. The total expected fish species richness may be somewhere between 320 and 411 species. The Saba Bank ichthyofaunal assemblage is compared to fish assemblages found elsewhere in the Caribbean. Despite the absence of shallow or emergent shore habitats like mangroves, Saba Bank ranks as having the eighth highest ichthyofaunal richness of surveyed localities in the Greater Caribbean. Some degree of habitat heterogeneity was evident. Fore-reef, patch-reef, and lagoonal habitats were sampled. Fish assemblages were significantly different between habitats. Species richness was highest on the fore reef, but 11 species were found only at lagoonal sites. A comprehensive, annotated list of the fishes currently known to occur on Saba Bank, Netherland Antilles, is provided and color photographs of freshly collected specimens are presented for 165 of the listed species of Saba Bank fishes to facilitate identification and taxonomic comparison with similar taxa at other localities. Coloration of some species is shown for the first time. Preliminary analysis indicates that at least six undescribed new species were collected during the survey and these are indicated in the annotated list. 

Date
2010
Data type
Scientific article
Theme
Research and monitoring
Journal
Geographic location
Saba bank

Recent invasion of a Florida (USA) estuarine system by lionfish Pterois volitans / P. miles

The invasion by lionfish Pterois volitans and P. miles throughout the western Atlantic and Caribbean is emerging as a serious ecological problem. While lionfish have been identified on coral reefs and in other marine systems, additional ecosystems may be affected as the invasion spreads. Here we identify the first estuarine intrusion by lionfish in their invasive range. Lionfish (n = 211) were captured in the Loxahatchee River estuary (Florida, USA) between August 2010 and April 2011, with some individuals located as far as ~5.5 km from the ocean. Multiple size classes were documented (standard lengths ranged from 23 to 185 mm), and post-settlement juveniles were present throughout the sampling period. All individuals were found in close association with anthropogenically created habitats (e.g. docks, sea walls, submerged debris), suggesting that humandriven changes in habitat availability may facilitate estuarine invasion. Fifteen prey taxa were found in lionfish stomachs, with diets dominated by small shrimp. Since estuaries are already highly threatened by human impacts, and provide critical habitat for numerous commercially, recreationally, and ecologically important species, establishment of lionfish in these ecosystems is of particular concern

Date
2011
Data type
Scientific article
Theme
Research and monitoring
Journal