Scientists, Whole Foods, and State Rep. Raschein Address Good News, Bad News on Lionfish

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
August 22, 2017

Contact: Martha Wilson
Tel.202.445.9514
mwilson@fisheries.org

Scientists, Whole Foods and State Rep Raschein Address Good News, Bad News on Lionfish

American Fisheries Society hosts public panel to address regional impacts of lionfish “Invasion”

Will Patterson, Ph.D. (University of Florida), Steve Gittings, Ph.D. (NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries), David Ventura (Whole Foods), Kali Spurgin (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission), James Ballard (Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission), and Florida State Representative Holly Raschein discuss ways to counteract the lionfish invasion in gulf waters.

(TAMPA, FL) August 22, 2017 – At the American Fisheries Society (AFS) Annual Meeting today in Tampa, State Representative Chair Holly Raschein joined fisheries experts from academic, governmental, and corporate sectors to lead the legislative segment of a public panel on the impacts of lionfish in the region and innovations in invasive species management.

She was joined by scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission (GSMFC), and the University of Florida, as well a lionfish marketing expert from Whole Foods.

“What I learned today will help me as I move forward to ask for more resources to build programs that will maintain the health of our coastal and inland ecosystems. These aquatic habitats are critical to our recreational and commercial fishing communities,” said Rep. Raschein. “Today’s discussion allowed us to share scientific research, and educational and marketing approaches, to come up with collaborative tactical solutions to help the state -- and region -- reverse the negative impacts of the invasive Lionfish.”

Lionfish species are considered harmful and invasive in U.S. waters because they create an imbalance that can harm other species and negatively tip the ecosystem balance. FWC citizen educational efforts have rallied communities to help control this aggressive invader: “At FWC, we are starting to see positive results from our efforts. When people understand that they can make a difference, they will commit to a conservation program,” said Kali Spurgin.

David Ventura, Florida regional seafood coordinator at Whole Foods, said: “In the last year, we have sold over 35,000 pounds of lionfish to consumers. So we have the demand. Our limitation is the supply. We have to find ways to harvest more and harvest more consistently. ”

According to the scientists on the panel, there is some good news to report. Dr. Will Patterson, from University of Florida, Dr. Steve Gittings from NOAA, and James Ballard from GSFMC, summarized some of the most recent tactics to target the species. Innovative gear, from cameras to a variety of traps, are being developed and deployed in collaboration with different groups. “We have been very successful at targeting lionfish in shallower water but the bigger challenge is how to harvest them in deeper water,” said Dr. Gittings. “One way that we’re trying to do this is by working with commercial fishermen.”

The panel further discussed the importance of working together across the sectors, securing funding, and developing a successful model that could be used in managing other invasive species in the region and across the country.

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Editor’s Notes:

Visit the conference website (AFSannualmeeting.fisheries.org) or download APP (“AFSAnnualMeetings”) for more information and follow the conference on Facebook (@AmericanFisheriesSociety) and Twitter (@AmFisheriesSoc) for the latest news and details on registration and events.

The AFS conference and associated trade show is taking place at the Tampa Convention Center and will feature keynote addresses by globally renowned fisheries scientists. Hundreds of scientific abstracts have been submitted for presentation at dozens of symposia featuring key topics and emerging issues in fisheries science. Approximately 1,500 are expected to attend the conference this year.

AFS is dedicated to strengthening the fisheries profession, advancing fisheries science, and conserving fisheries resources. Membership is mostly drawn from the scientific community but also includes fisheries professionals such as managers, administrators, educators and consultants.

Founded in 1870, the American Fisheries Society (AFS) is the world’s oldest and largest fisheries science society. The mission of AFS is to improve the conservation and sustainability of fishery resources and aquatic ecosystems by advancing fisheries and aquatic science and promoting the development of fisheries professionals. With five journals and numerous books and conferences, AFS is the leading source of fisheries science and management information in North America and around the world.