Monday, March 22, 2010

Lionfish plague threatens Bahamian economy

Lionfish continue to spread throughout the southern Atlantic and Caribbean. From an article by Gladstone Thurston on the

MARSH HARBOUR. Bahamas -- The explosion of lionfish population in Bahamian waters is “a plague of biblical proportions stalking the Bahamian economy,” the Reef Conservancy Society of Abaco is warning.

They are convinced that unless urgent action is taken it will wreck tourism, fishing and related industries.

It has now been confirmed that lionfish, known for their voracious appetite for Bahamian marine life, have been decimating fish that tend the coral reefs.

The loss of herbivorous fish sets the stage for seaweeds to potentially overwhelm coral reefs and disrupt the delicate ecological balance in which they exist, studies show.

Following on the heals of over fishing, sediment depositions, coral bleaching, and increasing ocean acidity, “this is of grave concern,” said renown zoologist/marine biologist, Dr Mark Hixon, a professor at Oregon State University.

Dr Hixon and his group work from the Perry Institute for Marine Science, Lee Stocking Island, Exuma. They have a three-year grant from the US National Science Foundation to study lionfish.

He warned that the rapid reproduction potential of lionfish must now be understood in context with their ability to seriously depopulate coral reef ecosystems of other fish.

It is well documented that over fishing parrotfishes and other herbivores contributes to the death of reef-building corals. Lionfish are “highly effective” at ‘over-fishing’, he warned.


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