By DNN Staff
NOAA recently announced its latest success in fighting the lionfish invasion plaguing southeastern United States and Caribbean waters. From June 10 to 13, trained volunteer divers and research partners, representing states from around the country, as well as Bermuda, participated in the fifth NOAA Lionfish Invitational: public events founded in 2015, which are designed to help stamp out the lionfish menace. During this period, lionfish catchers successfully removed 237 of the invasive species from NOAA’s Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary (FGBNMS), located off Galveston, Texas.
Spearfishing is normally illegal within sanctuary waters, though 22 of the trained volunteer divers received permits for the four-day removal event. Aboard charter boat M/V Fling, volunteer spearos removed 44 lionfish from Stetson Bank, 138 from East Flower Garden Bank, and 55 from the sanctuary’s west garden bank. According to NOAA, this was “by far the most experienced lionfish removal group of any trip, and yet they removed the least amount of fish of any previous cruise.”
Before and after the Lionfish Invitational, a science team made of eight divers conducted fish surveys at buoy sites around the sanctuary; scientists hope to use this data alongside lionfish dissections to determine which and how many species lionfish are consuming.
This Lionfish Invitational was made possible through support from volunteer divers, the Coast Watch Alliance, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, Georgia Aquarium, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, and Fling Charters.
For more details on upcoming Lionfish Invitationals as well as information on NOAA and the sanctuary system, visit https://flowergarden.noaa.gov.