Researcher studies effects of lionfish on local fish

POSTED: 02/28/12 1:37 PM

St. Maarten – Tineke Van Bussel a Master’s Degree student researcher at the Vrije Universiteit of Amsterdam began a study in February on the pressure that the invasive lionfish is having on local fish species. The study, which will focus on fish which are already in low abundance in the waters surrounding St. Maarten, will last until June.

Van Bussel is being hosted by the St. Maarten Nature Foundation as she also looks at the effects lionfish are having on the food resources of native St. Maarten fish species. Further research will also look at how much the lionfish are effecting the fish population on reefs both within the Man of War Shoal Marine Park and on reefs outside of it and how it affects the complex food web that exists on coral reefs.

“It is essential to know to what extent these species are both endangering juvenile fish and how they are competing for food with adult fish. For example; certain species of snapper may be badly affected not only by lionfish eating young snapper, but also because lionfish eat the same food snappers do. With the results we can suggest measures for the protection of certain fish species that are being most affected by the lionfish invasion,” van Bussel stated in a release.

Lionfish are an invasive venomous fish that can inflict a painful and sometimes fatal sting.

Lionfish are usually found in the Indian and Pacific Oceans but were introduced into the Atlantic thru the aquarium trade. Native fish species don’t recognize the Lionfish as a threat so they are unable to defend themselves against it. In other places were lionfish were spotted there are hardly any snappers and grouper left because those are the type of fish the lionfish likes to eat.

The foundation encourages fishermen, divers and all those who may have captured or sighted lionfish to report their catch or sightings to the foundation by calling 527-0490 or via email at manager@naturefoundationsxm.org

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