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        Face Off With The Enemy: Lionfish

 

U.S. Congressman Steve Southerland considers congressional hearing on invasive lionfish

I have met a lot of people during my tenure at the mastheads of the magazine end of the boating industry and many of them have quite passionate feelings about an overall concern for the environment we have decided to dedicate our lives to. Pete Johnson is an articulate, well-spoken gentleman and has taken up the cause of invasive species and the particular problems associated with them. To help get the message out, Pete sent me this latest release. Take a read and decide for yourself. -Capt. Ken

During a recent trip to Key West, Fla., U.S. Congressman Steve Southerland, (R), who serves on the House Natural Resources Committee and its Fisheries Subcommittee, got an up-close, personal look at an invasive lionfish.  Two rapidly reproducing and voracious non-native lionfish species, imported from the Indo-Pacific region, are wreaking havoc on fisheries and marine ecosystems in the Gulf of Mexico, Western Atlantic and the Caribbean Sea.

Southerland, who was attending a Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council meeting, spent extra time to learn more about the lionfish invasion which is also growing more populous on the reefs near his hometown of Panama City, Fla.  The congressman serves Florida’s second district which includes over half of the Florida Panhandle’s coastal waters.

The  culprit. Beautiful and deadly at the same time. Photo by Dr. James Morris.

The culprit. Beautiful and deadly at the same time. Photo by Dr. James Morris, NOAA.

“We discussed the significance of this invasion and impacts on indigenous species,” said Kelly.  “While the typical fisherman may not know much about them, since lionfish are rarely caught on conventional fishing tackle, thousands of recreational divers, descending to 100 ft. depths, have observed growing numbers of them on popular Florida reefs, submerged wrecks and other underwater sites.  However, these population densities pale in comparison to lionfish aggregations found deeper (120-300’ or more) beyond safe recreational diving depths.”

“Anglers and the general public should be very concerned,” Kelly said. “For example juvenile groupers and snappers are among some 100 documented fish which lionfish prey on and despite its now 1-1/2 pound average size, the lionfish can live for about 15 years and most likely double in size again.”  Marine researchers at the Lionfish Summit reported a single lionfish necropsy verified consumption of 20 tropical fish in only 30 minutes time.  In highly infested areas native fish populations have been reduced by as much as 80% in five weeks.

“Crustaceans like crab, shrimp and even juvenile spiny lobster are also popular food sources found in the stomach contents,” Kelly added, “as are herbivores, the very important small colorful fish that help keep coral reefs free of algae. Divers in many communities have helped keep lionfish populations in check through organized lionfish derbies and contests by spearing and hand-netting them.”

“In the five-year history since 2009 when lionfish were first spotted in the Keys, commercial lobster trappers have been finding increasing numbers as by-catch in their spiny lobster traps.  The numbers and sizes of lionfish have skyrocketed from 49 lbs at a 1/3 lb average caught the first year, to more than 10,000 pounds in 2013 averaging more than a pound apiece, as reported by just one commercial fisherman during an eight month fishing season.”

U.S. Congressman Steve Southerland (left), of Panama City, Fla., and Capt. Bill Kelly, Exec. Dir. of the Florida Keys Commercial Fisherman’s Association, view a lionfish on display in an aquarium at the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary’s Eco-Discovery Center in Key West, Fla. Two rapidly reproducing and voracious non-native lionfish species, imported from the Indo-Pacific region, are wreaking havoc on fisheries and marine ecosystems in the Gulf of Mexico, Western Atlantic and the Caribbean Sea. (Photo courtesy of Melissa Thompson)

U.S. Congressman Steve Southerland (left), of Panama City, Fla., and Capt. Bill Kelly, Exec. Dir. of the Florida Keys Commercial Fisherman’s Association, view a lionfish on display in an aquarium at the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary’s Eco-Discovery Center in Key West, Fla. Two rapidly reproducing and voracious non-native lionfish species, imported from the Indo-Pacific region, are wreaking havoc on fisheries and marine ecosystems in the Gulf of Mexico, Western Atlantic and the Caribbean Sea. (Photo courtesy of Melissa Thompson)

“And as we explained to Congressman Southerland, our commercial lobster trappers have seen denser populations of lionfish in deeper waters from 100 to 300 feet,” said Kelly.  “By developing the right trapping methods, lionfish could become a very valuable and nutritious consumer commodity while protecting our ecosystems.”

History of the Lionfish Invasion

The first sighting of lionfish in U.S. waters was reported in 1985 in the Atlantic waters off Dania Beach near Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.  It was believed to have been released by a tropical fish enthusiast who may have grown tired of caring for the exotic import, which may have been eating other expensive and colorful fish in his tank.

Indigenous to the tropical waters of the South Pacific, lionfish populations are held in check in their native habitat by natural predation. However, invasive lionfish have no natural predators and have spread rapidly in the past 29 years in sub-tropical and temperate waters of the northern hemisphere.  Just one female is capable of producing as many as 30,000 eggs every four days or more than two million eggs a year.

With a thermal tolerance of about 50 degrees, some 35 degrees less than their native habitat, lionfish have been found in Atlantic waters as far north as Rhode Island. In the U.S. the heaviest concentrations have been from Carolina waters south to the Florida Keys. They have also spread throughout the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the Bahamas, the Caribbean Islands and eastern Central and northern South America.

The ornate red and white stripped lionfish possesses 18 venomous spines on its dorsal fin and its pelvic and anal fins, which are used for defense. Its venom, a protein-based neurotoxin, can cause severe pain and swelling. Spearfishermen and commercial fishermen use safety techniques such as long spears, hand nets and puncture proof gloves to carefully avoid the spines. Though the spines, which are removed during the cleaning process, are venomous, it has no effect on the lionfish meat which is considered a delicacy and cooked in a variety of recipes.

Next Steps

Kelly said he and Southerland discussed several core issues. “Besides talking about how quickly this invasion occurred, the damages to the ecosystem and how widespread it has become, our hour-long conversation included containment methods such as divers using spears and nets near shore, and major emphasis on a well-monitored commercial trapping program offshore. Once that begins we’ll tie-in consumer awareness and educational program, leading to bigger demand for these fish in more restaurants, seafood houses and grocery store fish counters.” Southerland, Kelly said, was very concerned and indicated he would call for a subcommittee hearing before the House Natural Resources Committee.

“The alarm was sounded over 20 years ago by NOAA biologist and ecologist Dr. James Morris.  Now, in a relatively short period of time, we may very well be facing one of the most threatening marine invasions of our lifetime.  Until such time as native species of fish acquire an appetite for lionfish, if they ever do, our most promising method of containment will be a well-designed and closely monitored commercial trapping venture.  Time is of the essence,” said Kelly.

           GREEN DOCK is dedicated to supplying a forum to discuss important issues, products, and trends that can better help all of us protect the environment. Your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and desire to make a change is most welcome. Please contact us by using the COMMENT tab at the lower right hand corner of this page.

 For more information, contact Pete Johnson, Johnson Communications, Inc. E-mail: JohnsonCom@aol.com, ph: 480-951-3654

 

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2014 in Green Dock

 

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Green Dock

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PORTS OF CAUSE

In our attempts to cover our Green Dock mission to deliver information that concerns all aspects of how we can work towards the betterment of our watery environment, we would like to pass on information about Ports of Cause.

Ports of Cause logo

The organization is the result of the passion and dedication of interior yacht designer Joyce Clear, founder of the Clear Group, and devotee of all things nautical.

Joyce clear

Joyce Clear with Damien Durchon, captain of the Mari Cha, a 150-foot ketch whose interior Clear refitted, is firmly committed to the task ahead.

Her concerns run deep and she describes her organization as a social enterprise with a philanthropic mission to support non-profit organizations that are focused on the global water crisis and the protection and preservation of our oceans. “Our mission is to serve as a catalyst for social responsibility, marketing, education, awareness, action and fundraising for these critical issues of our time.”

Ports of Cause sponsors1Clear, along with many other supporters, kicked off Ports of Cause (POC) at this past Palm Beach Boat Show with a gala affair with lead sponsors Active Interest Media and Element Financial. POC plans to propel a series of newly refit luxury yachts into the global marketplace as ambassadors for non-profit organizations and corporate social responsibility.

POC will be working to heighten exposure, education, action and fundraising for multiple organizations including Plant A Fish, Waterkeeper Alliance, International Seakeepers Society, Thirst No More and Join the Pipe. POC-designated yachts will have fundraising events for these foundations in the future as well.

Ports of Cause sponsors2png“It is POC’s goal to refit a vessel every year as well as create an exclusive POC membership club. All the vessels in the fleet will fly the POC flag as proud supporters of our water-based causes, a representation to the world that this industry cares and will affect change,” explains Clear. Ms. Clear and POC Co- Founders Shelley Furse, Eric Dahler and Peter Vogel share a passion with other leaders in the industry that the time has come to create a vehicle through which the world is educated about the positive philanthropic, economic, technological and design impact provided by the global yachting industry.

highlander1
Joining the cause is the yacht Highlander. First built in 1967, she was owned by Forbes’ founder Malcolm Forbes and not only entertained kings, potentates, and celebs, but the movers and shakers who made the wheels of business and industry hum around the world. A fire took her to the waterline in 1980 but as you can clearly see, she has been lovingly restored to her classic Feadship lines. Highlander will be paired with Posh, a Hacker designed-Huskins-built vintage 1937 commuter yacht, as good will ambassadors at upcoming boat shows and other functions.

posh underway

If you would like more information about Ports of Cause, please contact them at 43 Ravenwood Drive, Suite 10H, Weston, CT 06883. http://www.portsofcause.com

GREEN DOCK is dedicated to supplying a forum to discuss important issues, products, and trends that can better help all of us protect the environment. Your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and desire to make a change is most welcome.

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2013 in Green Dock

 

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