New web portal aims to provide the public, scientists and coastal mangers a repository of data, details and dialogue on the invasive species threatening to decimate fisheries, Kimberly Blair reports for The Pensacola News Journal.
Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration today announced the launch of a user-friendly, and interactive Invasive Lionfish Web Portal aimed at arming the fishery community and public with the latest details to the combat the invasive species in the Atlantic and Gulf region.
“The lionfish web portal was built to bring together scientists and coastal managers to share information and gather resources,” Fisheries Institute executive director Bob Glazer said in a prepared statement. “We are confident that we can control lionfish in many places such as marine protected areas, sanctuaries, and other conservation areas if the many strategies and tools provided on the lionfish web portal are used.”
NOAA scientists and policy experts, non-profit environmental groups, academic scientists, and coastal managers from the Southeast U.S., Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico cobbled together decades-worth of their own research and experiences in dealing with the lionfish invasion to author the site.
Introduced into the southeast Atlantic through the U.S. aquarium trade in the 1980s, lionfish are now found in nearly all marine habitats in the Atlantic along the Southeast of the U.S., in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean waters. According to NOAA, densities of the lionfish have surpassed some native reef fish in many locations.
They are have caused ecological damage to reefs and are considered an aggressive threat to native fish populations throughout their range.
“Lionfish may prove to be one of the greatest threats of this century to tropical Atlantic reefs,” said NOAA ecologist James Morris, Ph.D. “As the first reef fish invasive species to this region, lionfish have clearly demonstrated the vulnerability of Atlantic reefs to marine invasions. With the lionfish web portal, coastal managers, scientists, and the public can work together to manage and better understand the lionfish and its economic and ecological impacts.”
Morris explained that the multilayer features on the lionfish portal are geared for different users and include everything from the most up-to-date news on the invader to new ways to harvest them, how to prevent being stung by one of their venomous spines, and what to do if you do get stung. There’s even manuals on dissecting lionfish and monitoring guidelines.
“If you’re the public we have information on the front page and an educational outreach page for teachers and the public,” he said. “We have a special page for researchers. One of the most useful parts is a database inventory of all the scientific lionfish research articles. That’s extremely valuable if you’re a researcher of student.”
The papers are searchable by years or subject, such as lionfish feeding patterns, he said. Examples of management plans are also available for marine resource managers to refer to create their own plans, he said.
“Part of the usefulness of the site is it will help promote a dialogue among scientist and coastal managers and it provides a forum for posting questions,” Morris said.
That forum is on the interactive front page that also features live Twitter (#lionfish), Flickr, YouTube, and Google news feeds, along with image and video contests, an animated lionfish distribution map.
Even journalists working on lionfish stories are urged to use the site for research and sources and to keep up with breaking news on the issue.
“There’s a myth-buster section,” Morris said. “It would be fun to go through those myths and look for the facts behind them.”
The project was funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Conservation and Water. Collaborating partners include NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, GCFI, REEF, the International Coral Reef Initiative, and Oregon State University.
Check out the new Invasive Lionfish Web portal at lionfish.gcfi.org.
From the Lionfish Web Portal: Timeline of the Lionfish Invasion (from USGS)
For the original report go to http://www.pnj.com/story/news/local/environment/2015/01/06/new-web-portal-aims-tame-lionfish-invasion/21345133/