Marine Science Faculty Publications

Is the Lionfish Invasion Waning? Evidence from The Bahamas

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Habitat scaling, Marine invasion, Population growth, Time series

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Indo-Pacific lionfishes (Pterois volitans/miles) have undergone rapid population growth and reached extremely high densities in parts of the invaded Atlantic. However, their long-term population trends in areas without active management programs are unknown. Since 2005, we have monitored lionfish abundance in the Exuma Cays of the central Bahamas on 64 reefs ranging in size from 1 to 4000 m2. Lionfish densities increased from the first sighting in 2005 through 2009, leveled off between 2010 and 2011, and then began to decrease. By 2015, densities had noticeably declined on most of these reefs, despite a lack of culling or fishing efforts in this part of The Bahamas. There was no consistent change in lionfish size structure through time. We discuss possible causes of the decline, including reductions in larval supply or survival, hurricanes, interactions with native species, and intraspecific interactions. Further studies are required to determine whether the declines will persist. In the meantime, we recommend that managers continue efforts to control invasive lionfish abundances locally.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Coral Reefs, v. 36, p. 1255-1261