Targeted removal and enhanced monitoring help manage lionfish in the Mediterranean

image: A group of up to 18 volunteer scuba divers worked together to remove lionfish from the Cape Greco marine reserve.
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Credits: Periklis Kleitou / University of Plymouth

Targeted removal is effective in reducing the number of invasive lionfish found within the protected coastline around the Mediterranean Sea.

But for them to be truly successful, they need to be combined with better long-term surveillance by communities and conservationists to ensure that their timing and location achieve the best results.

These are important discoveries in new studies and one of the first to investigate the effectiveness of lionfish removal in both ecological and socio-economic perspectives.

Scientists working as part of the European Union-funded RELION MED project worked with specially trained divers and citizen scientists to conduct a series of removal events and investigations over a six-month period.

Focusing on three marine protected areas along the Cyprus coast, the Xenovia wreck off Larnaca and two popular diving sites within the Cape Greco marine protected area, each protected area has 35-119 lions per day for divers. Removed the fish.

These sites have since been monitored by divers for several months, indicating that in some places the population has recovered within three months.

As a result, scientists Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems The journal says such an initiative could undoubtedly be effective in reducing population.

However, it must be carefully adjusted to eliminate the possibility of overfishing of lionfish in a way that does not adversely affect other species.

The study was led by researchers at the University of Plymouth (UK) and the Marine Environmental Studies (MER) Lab (Cyprus). They have been working together for several years as part of the € 1.6 million RELION MED project aimed at assessing the history of lionfish invasion into Cyprus and identifying ways to minimize its future impact.

Periklis Kleitou, research assistant and lead author of the RELIONMED project, said: “Many changes are taking place in the Mediterranean as a result of human activity and climate change. The lionfish invasion is one of the notable consequences, which is a complex and rewarding solution, according to research. One of the interesting aspects of this task was to see how training improved knowledge of divers’ issues and motivated them to support their management activities. Definitely something. We can and should build to ensure that the lionfish population is sustainably managed now and in the future. “

Lionfish first began to inhabit the Mediterranean within 10 years as a result of the expansion of the Suez Canal and global warming.

The species was first recorded off the coast of Cyprus in 2014, lacking common predators, and coupled with lionfish breeding habits, it has dramatically increased in number as it is witnessed throughout the coastline and deep sea. Did.

The first targeted removal took place in May 2019, combined with an educational program on successful species threats and how to manage them in a sustainable manner in areas previously invaded by lionfish. rice field.

Professor Jason Hallspencer of Marine Biology, a senior author of the current study and one of the core groups of scientists advising the International Program on Marine Conditions (IPSO), said: Marine protected areas are undoubtedly beneficial in terms of seafloor biodiversity, but they are also vulnerable to the spread of invasive species. Ongoing research shows a vital role that citizens can play in the monitoring and management of Lionfish, but divers are allowed. Eliminating these fish using scuba gear requires careful application and strict regulation to avoid illegal fishing. When performed correctly, removal events help protect selected areas from the negative effects of Lionfish while at the same time establishing a prosperous and prosperous community connection, responsibility and monitoring at the corporate and social levels. Strengthening, and awe-inspiring arenes of the public environment. ”


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