Fish

Reef Fishes of Saba Bank, Netherlands Antilles: Assemblage Structure across a Gradient of Habitat Types

Saba Bank is a 2,200 km2 submerged carbonate platform in the northeastern Caribbean Sea off Saba Island, Netherlands Antilles. The presence of reef-like geomorphic features and significant shelf edge coral development on Saba Bank have led to the conclusion that it is an actively growing, though wholly submerged, coral reef atoll. However, little information exists on the composition of benthic communities or associated reef fish assemblages of Saba Bank. We selected a 40 km2 area of the bank for an exploratory study. Habitat and reef fish assemblages were investigated in five shallow-water benthic habitat types that form a gradient from Saba Bank shelf edge to lagoon. Significant coral cover was restricted to fore reef habitat (average cover 11.5%) and outer reef flat habitat (2.4%) and declined to near zero in habitats of the central lagoon zone. Macroalgae dominated benthic cover in all habitats (average cover: 32.5 – 48.1%) but dominant algal genera differed among habitats. A total of 97 fish species were recorded. The composition of Saba Bank fish assemblages differed among habitat types. Highest fish density and diversity occurred in the outer reef flat, fore reef and inner reef flat habitats. Biomass estimates for commercially valued species in the reef zone (fore reef and reef flat habitats) ranged between 52 and 83 g/m2 . The composition of Saba Bank fish assemblages reflects the absence of important nursery habitats, as well as the effects of past fishing. The relatively high abundance of large predatory fish (i.e. groupers and sharks), which is generally considered an indicator of good ecosystem health for tropical reef systems, shows that an intact trophic network is still present on Saba Bank

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

Presence of the invasive red lionfish, Pterois volitans, on the coast of Venezuela, southeastern Caribbean Sea

We report the presence of the invasive Indo-Pacific red lionfish (Pterois volitans) in 23 localities of the Venezuelan coast, southeastern Caribbean Sea. This finding is based on ten specimens collected at Parque Nacional Archipiélago de Los Roques (PNAR, Dependencias Federales), Playa Cal, Caraballeda and Puerto Carayaca (Estado Vargas) and 30 specimens observed in 18 localities of PNAR, Parque Nacional Morrocoy (Estado Falcón), Bahía de Cata, Ensenada de Cepe (Estado Aragua), Puerto Cruz, Chichiriviche de La Costa, Mamo, Catia La Mar, La Guaira, Macuto, Caraballeda (Estado Vargas) and Farallón Centinela (Dependencias Federales). The specimens were collected and observed from November 2009 to June 2010. This is the first published report documenting their occurrence in Venezuela.

Date
2010
Data type
Scientific article
Theme
Research and monitoring

Multi-scale habitat occupancy of invasive lionfish (Pterois volitans) in coral reef environments of Roatan, Honduras

The Indo-Pacific lionfish species [Pterois volitans (Linnaeus, 1758) and P. miles (Bennett, 1828): Family Scorpaenidae] are the first nonnative marine fishes to establish in the Western North Atlantic and Caribbean Sea. Despite the continued documentation of its range expansion and highly publicized invasion (including public-driven removal efforts) there remains a paucity of basic information on lionfish ecology. This knowledge gap limits effective long-term management. In this study we conducted a multi-scale investigation of habitat occupancy of a newly established population of lionfish in Roatan, Honduras. Based on field surveys and citizen sightings in Roatan Marine Park we found that lionfish occurred more frequently on aggregate coral reef habitats (54% of sightings) compared to patch reef habitats (30%) and sea grass lagoons (16%). In general, these aggregate and patch reef habitats contained adults (mean total length =118.9 mm and 114.7mm, respectively) whereas sea grass habitats contained juveniles (mean total length=89.5 mm). At the micro-habitat scale lionfish occupied areas dominated by hard coral and overhanging structure; the same microhabitats containing native fishes of concern – grouper (Nassau grouper, Epinephelus striatus; yellow fin grouper, Mycteroperca venenosa) and snapper (dog snapper, Lutjanus jocu; mutton snapper, Lutjanus analis). Results from this study contribute information on basic habitat requirements of lionfish and inform current management removal efforts focused on containing spread and mitigating their impacts on native species

Date
2011
Data type
Scientific article
Theme
Research and monitoring

St. Eustatius National Parks - 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. Eustatius 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 Statia 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 the St. Eustatius National Marine Park 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 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
2009
Data type
Research report
Theme
Governance
Research and monitoring
Geographic location
St. Eustatius
Author

Nutritional properties of the invasive lionfish: A delicious and nutritious approach for controlling the invasion

Lionfish, Pterois volitans and P. miles, are native to the Indo-Pacific and have recently invaded the Western Atlantic Ocean. Strategies for control of this invasion have included limited removal programs and promotion of lionfish consumption at both local and commercial scales. We demonstrate that lionfish meat contains higher levels of healthy n-3 fatty acids than some frequently consumed native marine fish species. Mean lionfish fillet yield was 30.5% of the total body wet weight, a value that is similar to that of some grouper and porgy species. A sensory evaluation indicated that lionfish meet the acceptability threshold of most consumers.

Date
2011
Data type
Scientific article
Theme
Research and monitoring

Understanding the Lionfish Invasion in Bonaire to Develop the Best Strategy for Trinidad and Tobago

Abstract:

Lionfish are venomous, predatory reef fish native to the Indo-Pacific region, but have become widely distributed due to its popularity as an aquarium fish. Due to high fecundity, adaptability to non-native habitats and tolerance to large temperature and depth ranges, the lionfish invasion has the potential to become the most detrimental in history. Lionfish were first confirmed in Bonaire on 26th October, 2009. Since then, despite active eradication attempts, they have increased in abundance, occupying habitats at a range of depths. Trinidad and Tobago however have yet to be invaded by lionfish, but the presence of lionfish in aquariums in Trinidad and the availability of suitable prey and habitat, together with confirmed lionfish sightings in neighbouring territories make the lionfish invasion imminent. Questionnaires were conducted with target groups (lionfish-hunters, divers, dive- shops, fishermen and pet-shop owners) in Bonaire and Trinidad and Tobago. These revealed that there was a significant difference in the level of opinions and awareness between the invaded territory (Bonaire) and the un-invaded territory (Trinidad and Tobago). The current lionfish management strategies in Bonaire and the Caribbean were also appraised to suggest the best approach for Trinidad and Tobago in dealing with the future threat of lionfish. 

Date
2011
Data type
Scientific article
Theme
Research and monitoring
Geographic location
Bonaire
Author

A post-hurricane rapid assessment of reefs in the Windward Netherlands Antilles (stony corals, algae and fishes)

 

Reefs of the windward Netherlands Antilles (Saba, Saba Bank, St. Eustatius, St. Maarten) were assessed at 24 sites in the late 1999. The Atlantic and Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment (AGGRA) protocol was used with modifications to detect recent hurricane impacts. Live coral cover averaged 18%. The assemblage of >10 cm stony corals was primarily composed of small-sized colonies (mean diameter = 37 cm) of which the Montastraea annularis complex was the most abundant (30% of colonies). Overall, =1% of the individually surveyed colonies had been physically damaged by Hurricane Lenny but injury levels were higher in Saba (2.6%). Bleaching was noted in 23% of colonies at the time of the assessment with the greatest percentage occurring on St. Maarten (44%) and the lowest on Saba Bank (9%). Total (recent + old) partial mortality of reef-building corals averaged less than 18% although levels were higher (26%) in Colpophyllia natans. Coral recruitment densities were relatively consistent (mean = 5 recruits/m2) across sites. Commercially significant fish species (i.e. serranids, lutjanids, haemulids >5 cm) were present with mean densities of 4.5 individuals/100 m2. High biomass (mean = 5.8 kg/100 m2) of grazing, herbivorous fishes (acanthurids, scarids >5 cm, Microspathodon chrysurus) partially explains the relatively low macroalgal cover (mean = 7%) throughout this area. Saba’s fish community had a greater total biomass than those in the other three geographic areas (mean = 11 kg/100 m2 versus 7 kg/100 m2). While the coral reefs of St. Maarten show signs of disturbance (i.e., increased bleaching and sedimentation), those of Saba, Saba Bank, and southern St. Eustatius have been relatively little disturbed by coastal development and remain potential sources of marine life. Nevertheless, reef development in the windward Netherlands Antilles is limited by frequent hurricanes.

Date
2003
Data type
Scientific article
Theme
Research and monitoring
Geographic location
Saba
St. Eustatius
St. Maarten

Predicted impact of the invasive lionfish Pterois volitans on the food web of a Caribbean coral reef

The invasion of lionfish in the Caribbean is causing grave concern because of its deleterious impacts on coral reef food-webs. We have used an Ecopath-with-Ecosim model to predict the impacts of lionfish invasion on a coral reef community based on pre-invasion fish community data. Forty-six groups were defined, and an initial Ecopath model was balanced with a near-zero biomass of lionfish. In Ecosim, the near-zero biomass was eradicated by applying a very high fishing pressure in the first year of simulation. We subsequently (re-)introduced lionfish with a very low biomass, and allowed them to increase to very high abundance. With a near-zero lionfish biomass, the great majority of mesocarnivorous/omnivorous coral reef fish were predicted to be dominant while sharks were predicted to be the apex predators. Different management scenarios were established in the ecosystem to explore the eradication and resilience of lionfish. The management scenarios showed that if all adult lionfish were exploitable it will in theory be possible to fish the lionfish to a very low level, but the fishing pressure will have to be maintained, or the lionfish will recover. If the largest individuals are unexploitable it will be much more difficult to control the lionfish population

Date
2011
Data type
Scientific article
Theme
Research and monitoring