Scientists have developed a plan to manage lionfish populations in the Mediterranean

A new report calls on authorities in the Mediterranean region to rapidly develop opportunities for commercial and recreational fishermen to target lionfish. Credit: University of Plymouth

Scientists have published a series of recommendations to enable communities and managers to reduce the impact of lionfish in the Mediterranean.

The invasive species was first observed off the coast of Lebanon in 2012, and sightings have since been recorded as far west as Sicily, and as far north as the Adriatic Sea off Croatia.

More entered in 2015 due to the expansion and deepening of the Suez Canal, with its spread unimpeded by the lack of common predators.

Researchers in the UK and Cyprus have said that increased lionfish density – combined with the species’ overall diet and consumption of environmentally, socially and economically important fish – has the potential to further disrupt an already stressed marine environment.

They have now published a guide to managing lionfish in the Mediterranean, which contains a series of recommendations with which they hope to manage lionfish populations.

This includes organizing targeted executions and creating a supply chain between fishermen, markets, businesses and consumers to make lionfish a component of the region’s fishing industry.

They also called for legal changes to be made to allow the removal of lionfish across the Mediterranean, and for the species to be included in the European Union’s list of invasive species of concern.

Scientists have developed a plan to manage lionfish populations in the Mediterranean

The guide calls for lionfish to be a component of the region’s fishing industry. Credit: University of Plymouth

The recommendations were developed as part of RELIONMED, a four-year project supported by a €1,676,077 grant from the European Union’s LIFE programme.

It has united several organizations in Cyprus (including the University of Cyprus, Department of Fisheries and Marine Research, Enalia Physis Center for Environmental Research, and Laboratory of Marine and Environmental Research Ltd.) with marine researchers at the University of Plymouth.

Professor Jason Hall Spencer, Principal Investigator in Plymouth for the RELIONMED Project, says, “The lionfish invasion is the fastest ever in the Mediterranean. Our research has shown that between 2018-2020 alone, there has been a 400% increase in lionfish populations in the Mediterranean Sea. Areas off Cyprus where fishing has been restricted within MPAs. However, we’ve also seen that there is an understanding within the communities of the need to act, a willingness to engage. It is unlikely that it will ever be eradicated, and our changing climate and warming oceans mean that they are actually more likely to spread further. Only through biosecurity improvements to the Suez Canal can we avoid more and more invasive species drowning in the Mediterranean.”

Periklis Kleitou, Research Assistant to the RELIONMED Project and lead author of the guide, added, “Habitat corridors, natural barriers, and disruptions have minimal impact on marine organisms. Managing invasive species requires a transboundary and concerted approach to success. Producing this guide is vital as it shares successful stories and new knowledge. of the RELIONMED project, and allows for the expansion of lionfish management efforts to the wider region.”

His Royal Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco endorsed the evidence. The Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation works to protect the environment and promote sustainable development, for which he was awarded an honorary doctorate of sciences from the University of Plymouth in 2013.

Writing in the introduction to the guide, he said, “The spread of lionfish in the Mediterranean poses a major threat to the ecosystems of our sea. That is why it is important to do everything in our power to prevent, discourage and reduce it. This is what the solutions presented in this guide are so effectively displayed, Based on both sound scientific experience and critical feedback.”

Scientists have developed a plan to manage lionfish populations in the Mediterranean

This graphic shows how lionfish sightings have been recorded across the Mediterranean over the past decade. Credit: University of Plymouth

Nine-point plan to manage the invasion of lion fish

The main recommendations developed by the researchers, and published in the Handbook for Managing Lionfish in the Mediterranean, are as follows:

  • target lionfish quickly to reduce the potential for environmental and socio-economic impacts;
  • Rapidly developing opportunities for commercial and recreational fishermen to target lionfish
  • Focus on the legal changes needed to allow the lionfish to be removed
  • Establish a supply chain for lionfish products.
  • Encourage public interest in sighting and eating opportunities and participation in lionfish management activities.
  • Setting limits on environmental, economic and social impacts and evaluating the performance of administrative activities.
  • Observe the lion fish in sentry posts.
  • He immediately put the lionfish on the agenda of regional cooperation. It should be included in the European Union’s List of Invasive Species of Concern.
  • Supporting biosecurity measures in the Suez Canal.

Invasive lionfish will likely become permanent residents of the Mediterranean

more information:
Report:… ort_RGB_20220309.pdf

Presented by the University of Plymouth

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