Course:CONS200/2020/Ecological impacts of lionfish invasion in Central America

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 Red lionfish at the Aquazoo (aquarium) in the Zoo Schmiding in Schmiding near Bad Schallerbach, Austria.
Pterois volitans (Linnaeus, 1758), Photographed by: Michael Gäbler

The common lionfish (Pterosis volitans and P. miles), a midsized fish found in the Indo-Pacific Ocean, was documented in 1985 as a non-indigenous species off the coast of Florida[1]. Since the 2000s, the fish is classified as an invasive species off the East Coast of the U.S. and the Caribbean, where its expanding populations continues to significantly reduce coral-reef fish communities and disrupt native ecosystems[2].

Several response plans have been created to address the problem at both regional and international scales. In the United States, the National Marine Fisheries Service released a National Marine Sanctuaries Lionfish Response Plan which applies within U.S. waters. Central American countries also independently developed plans, but without legal jurisdiction, management of lionfish invasion was limited. In 2010, the 24th General Conference of the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) created an ad-hoc committee that designed a framework facilitating collaboration between existing programs and national stakeholders to better reduce the widening scope of lionfish impacts.

Because of its unique biological characteristics and behaviors, lionfish populations continue to persist in large numbers. Current management strategies include lionfish spearfishing (Usseglio, 2017), marketing for consumption and education campaigns.

Ecology of lionfish

Lionfish Range and Preferred Habitats

There are currently 12 species identified for Pterois genus, Andover lionfish, Spot-fin lionfish, Red Sea lionfish, and etc. Lionfish species spread widely all over the world, from Atlantic Ocean to Indian Ocean to Pacific Ocean, and it is native to Indo-Pacific as a predator. When talking about invasion, it is most invasive nowadays in the west Atlantic, Mediterranean Sea, and Caribbean Sea. Lionfish prefer to live in harbors and some turbid inshore areas, and they can also be found at the rocky surfaces, seaward edges of coral and so on.

Mode of Invasion and Traits Contributing to Spread

The mode of invasion for lionfish is the inhabitation of reef areas, which may cause the native species that live there move toward worse conditions and cause the decline for other species and reefs. Lionfish can spread in such a great success because there is much nutrient availability for lionfish, and they do not have specific predators. Data shows that lionfish has ability to survive and even reproduce in a brand-new environment, and they can also occupy a area in a short amount of time.[2]

Other Factors Contributing to Spread

Lionfish have a wide range of preys to choose from their habitats. They can eat fished, mollusks, and up to 6 species in total. They are good predator with excellent hunting skills, especially when they use the currents to capture preys. Beside this, the lionfish were found in many different places, like reefs, rocky mountains, mangroves, and so on, which show that lionfish can adapt well in different temperature and salinity conditions, even depths range from 1m to 300m are their homes.[2]

Ecological impacts caused by lionfish

Scope of Damage




Aquatic Impacts

Habitat Destruction

Aquatic Community Shifts

Human Impacts

Options for remedial actions, management, regulation and policy

Management Motives

Trends in prevailing ethical perspectives

Media controversy and public response

Management tools and tactics

Ecosystem services

Media framing

Citizen science and involvement

Options for future remedial action(s)

An evaluation of solutions from technical, social, cultural, economic, financial, political and/or legal points of view (not all of these categories will be relevant to all situations). If relevant, add any policy recommendations.


Further considerations

Emerging technology

(eDNA, genetic nucleotide monitoring, remote sensing etc.)

How to respond to predicted spread


Please use the Wikipedia reference style. Provide a citation for every sentence, statement, thought, or bit of data not your own, giving the author, year, AND page. For dictionary references for English-language terms, I strongly recommend you use the Oxford English Dictionary. You can reference foreign-language sources but please also provide translations into English in the reference list.

Note: Before writing your wiki article on the UBC Wiki, it may be helpful to review the tips in Wikipedia: Writing better articles.[4]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Morris, J.A., Jr., and P.E. Whitfield. (2009). Biology, Ecology, Control and Management of the Invasive Indo-Pacific Lionfish: An Updated Integrated Assessment.  NOAA Technical Memorandum NOS NCCOS. 99, 57.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Carballo-Cardenas, E. C. (2015). "Controversies and consensus on the lionfish invasion in the Western Atlantic Ocean". Ecology and Society. 20(3). 
  3. Arias-González, J. E., González-Gándara, C., Luis Cabrera, J., & Christensen, V. (2011). "Predicted impact of the invasive lionfish pterois volitans on the food web of a caribbean coral reef". Environmental Research. 111(7): 917–925. 
  4. (2018). Writing better articles. [online] Available at: [Accessed 18 Jan. 2018].



Seekiefer (Pinus halepensis) 9months-fromtop.jpg
This conservation resource was created by Course:CONS200. It is shared under a CC-BY 4.0 International License.
  1. Díaz-Ferguson, E. E., & Hunter, M. E. (2019). "Life history, genetics, range expansion and new frontiers of the lionfish (Pterois volitans, perciformes: Pteroidae) in Latin America". Regional Studies in Marine Science. 31: 100793. 
  2. Iovenko, C. (2019). Latest weapon against lionfish invasion? Meet the Roomba of the sea. The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved from:
  3. Whitfield, P., Gardner, T., Vives, S., Gilligan, M., Ray, W. C., Ray, G., & Hare, J. (2002). Biological invasion of the Indo-Pacific lionfish Pterois volitans along the Atlantic coast of North America. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 235, 289–297.
  4. Pérez-Portela, R, A. Bumford, B. Coffman, S. Wedelich, M. Davenport, A. Fogg, M.K. Swenarton, F. Coleman, M.A. Johnston, D.L. Crawford, and M.F. Oleksiak. 2018. Genetic homogeneity of the invasive lionfish across the Northwestern Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico based on single nucleotide polymorphisms. Scientific Reports, 8, 5062.
  5. Schofield, P. (2010). Update on geographic spread of invasive lionfishes (Pterois volitans [Linnaeus, 1758] and P. miles [Bennett, 1828]) in the Western North Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico. Aquatic Invasions, 5(Supplement 1).
  6. Usseglio, P., Selwyn, J. D., Downey-Wall, A. M., & Hogan, J. D. (2017). Effectiveness of removals of the invasive lionfish: how many dives are needed to deplete a reef?. PeerJ, 5, e30430.