Principal Investigator: William Patterson, University of Florida
Co-Investigators: David Chagaris and Rob Ahrens, University of Florida
Funding Source: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Lionfish trapping has been proposed as a means to remove lionfish biomass from mesophotic reefs, as well as from protected ecosystems. Spiny lobster fishermen in the Florida Keys have sold lionfish bycatch for several years to offset trip costs, and lionfish have also been reported from other traps types, such as stone crab traps on the west Florida shelf and black sea bass pots in US Atlantic waters. In this project, we will work with for-hire recreational and commercial fishermen to remove lionfish biomass from mesophotic reefs off the Florida Panhandle with different fish trap types. There are presently no trap fisheries in this region, which has among the highest lionfish densities in the invaded range.
Therefore, we will borrow trap designs from two other regions, as well as utilize a new trap design developed by Dr. Steve Gittings of NOAA’s Marine Sanctuary Program. We will examine the effectiveness of each trap design to remove lionfish biomass from mesophotic reefs, as well as assess trap impacts, if any, to livebottom habitats and native reef fishes. This work will take advantage of ongoing reef fish Management Strategy Evaluation (RF-MSE) research being conducted with ecosystem models computed for the nGOM ecosystem. This simulation modeling work will enable us to examine the efficacy of developing a deepwater trap fishery for lionfish in the nGOM. Based on the success of trapping and results of simulation work examining the efficacy of a deepwater nGOM trap fishery for lionfish, we will transfer knowledge gained through this work to fishermen such that a fishery can be developed to remove lionfish biomass from nGOM mesophotic reefs.
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