NCCOS researchers have developed a new model to forecast the impacts of invasive lionfish consumption on Atlantic reefs. The model, published in Transactions of the American Fisheries Society, uses ambient water temperature and various physiological parameters to predict the energetic demands of lionfish populations. The model has been used to calculate the total number of lionfish prey consumed and the resulting effect on the biodiversity of reefs in Florida, North Carolina, and the Caribbean. When coupled with stomach content analysis, reef managers can use the model to predict the number of commercially important species consumed, such as Nassau grouper or vermilion snapper. The model can also be used to estimate the number of fish conserved by lionfish removal efforts. For example, lionfish derbies have been known to remove up to 2,000 lionfish from local reefs. Using consumption estimates derived from the model, the number of prey fish that would have been consumed annually by these lionfish reaches well into the millions.
For more information on this study and other lionfish research projects, contact James.Morris@noaa.gov.