FWC awards $250,000 in lionfish research funds

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) awarded $250,000 to five organizations in early 2018 to research and develop innovative methods to remove lionfish from deep-water habitat.

Lionfish, a nonnative invasive species, have a potential to negatively impact native wildlife and habitats and can be found in shallow water as well as up to 1,000 feet in depth.

While the Florida diving community uses spearfishing gear to control lionfish populations in shallow waters, many lionfish inhabit depths beyond recreational dive limits (130 feet). The removal of lionfish from deep-water habitats will contribute to the success of diver-removals in shallow waters.

Research proposals were submitted in fall 2017 and five organizations were selected to each receive $50,000 in funding. Contracts were executed in March 2018 and will be completed by June 2019.

Project Awardees and Details

University of Florida: Will field test and evaluate development and retrieval strategies for harvesting lionfish in deep-water habitat with the use of a non-containment curtain trap. This information will be used to develop a standardized gear and sampling methodology for use in an upcoming Gulf-wide research project.

Reef Environmental Education Foundation: Will assess modified lobster trap and curtain trap designs and gather field recordings of lionfish vocalizations to assess whether sound can be used as an attractant or an aggregation tool.

American Marine Research Company: Will work to develop an agile and versatile underwater drone that can be used to control lionfish populations. The project will further evaluate the drone design with a focus on how to best use drone technology and to determine which characteristics of lionfish behavior make lionfish vulnerable to this kind of harvest.

R3 Digital Sciences: Will develop and promote fish trap extension kits for existing commercial spiny lobster traps that will convert them from indiscriminate traps into “smart traps” capable of specifically targeting lionfish from depths greater than 130 feet.

Atlantic Lionshare Ltd.: Will complete the development of a remotely-operated vehicle called the Reef Sweeper that can be used to harvest lionfish from beyond recreational diving depths.
The goal is to harvest lionfish in quantities that make it possible to offer it consistently as a common food source to restaurants, stores and wholesalers.
Call for abstracts

The FWC is announcing a call for abstracts for the 2018 Lionfish Summit in Cocoa Beach Oct. 2-4. If you are interested in participating, submit an abstract (up to 1 page) to Lionfish@MyFWC.com on your work and note if you are interested in giving an oral presentation or poster and which theme your presentation will address (Policy & Regulations, Control Efforts/Research & Monitoring, and Education & Outreach) no later than Aug. 3. Space is competitive and submission of an abstract does not guarantee acceptance.