Scientists come up with plan to manage lionfish
Scientists have published a series of recommendations to enable communities and managers to minimize the impact of lionfish in the Mediterranean Sea.
The invasive species was first noticed off the coast of Lebanon in 2012, with sightings recorded from as far west as Sicily and north into the Adriatic Sea off Croatia.
Others entered in 2015 due to the widening and deepening of the Suez Canal, with their spread unhindered due to a lack of common predators.
Researchers in the UK and Cyprus have said rising lionfish densities – combined with the species’ generalist diet and consumption of ecologically and socio-economically important fish – could further disrupt an already stressed marine environment.
They have now published a Guide to Lionfish Management in the Mediterranean, which presents a series of recommendations with which they hope to be able to manage lionfish populations.
This includes organizing targeted culls and creating a supply chain between fishers, markets, businesses and consumers to make lionfish part of the region’s fishing industry.
They also called for legal changes to allow the removal of lionfish across the Mediterranean and for the species to be included on the European Union’s list of invasive species of concern.
The guidelines were developed as part of RELIONMED, a four-year project supported by a €1,676,077 grant from the European Union’s LIFE programme.
It brought together several organizations in Cyprus (including the University of Cyprus, Department of Fisheries and Marine Research, Enalia Physis Environmental Research Center and Marine & Environmental Research Lab Ltd) with marine researchers from the University of Plymouth .
Professor Jason Hall-Spencer, Principal Investigator for Plymouth on the RELIONMED project, said: “The lionfish invasion is the fastest ever reported in the Mediterranean Sea. Our research has shown that between 2018 and 2020 alone, there has been a 400% increase in the number of lionfish in offshore areas. Cyprus where fishing was restricted in marine protected areas.However, we also found that there is both an understanding within communities of the need for action and a willingness to get involved. Lionfish populations in the Mediterranean Sea are unlikely to be eradicated, and our changing climate and warming ocean means they are actually more likely to spread further. Only by improving the biosecurity of the Suez Canal can we prevent more and more invasive species from flooding the Mediterranean Sea.
Periklis Kleitou, research assistant on the RELIONMED project and lead author of the guide, added: “Habitat corridors, natural barriers and discontinuities have little effect on marine organisms. cross-border and collaborative for success The production of this guide is vital as it shares success stories and new knowledge from the RELIONMED project, and enables the scaling up of lionfish management efforts in the wider region.
The Guide has also received the endorsement of HSH the Sovereign Prince Albert II of Monaco. The Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation works to protect the environment and promote sustainable development, and he received an honorary doctorate of science from the University of Plymouth in recognition of this in 2013.
Writing in the foreword to the Guide, he said: “The proliferation of lionfish in the Mediterranean is a major threat to our marine ecosystems. This is why it is important to do everything possible to prevent, inhibit and limit it. This is what the solutions presented in this Guide demonstrate very effectively, based both on solid scientific expertise and on conclusive feedback.
A nine-point plan for dealing with the lionfish invasion
The main recommendations developed by the researchers and published in the Mediterranean Lionfish Management Guide are as follows:
- Rapidly target lionfish to reduce the potential for ecological and socio-economic impacts;
- Rapidly developing opportunities for commercial and recreational fishers to target lionfish
- Focus on the legal changes needed to allow lionfish harvesting
- Create a supply chain for lionfish products.
- Engage the public with opportunities to see, eat and participate in lionfish management activities.
- Set thresholds for environmental, economic and social impacts and assess the performance of management activities.
- Watch for lionfish in sentinel locations.
- Immediately put lionfish on the regional cooperation agenda. They must appear on the European list of invasive species of concern.
- Support biosecurity measures in the Suez Canal.
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