Protecting coral reefs against IAS

Did you know that it takes 10 to 20 years for coral reefs to recover after invasive species? The lionfish (Pterois volitans) is a volatile, aggressive coral reef fish that is native to the tropical waters of the Indian and South Pacific Oceans. It has invaded the Caribbean, South America, and the Southeast coast of the United States. The invasion of this invasive species has reduced commercial fish species which include parrot fish, grouper, and snapper. It has also targeted herbivorous fish which consume macro-algae and help protect corals from algal overgrowth. According to a recent survey, 14% of the world’s coral have died since 2009.

Coral reefs make up an important part of marine ecosystems as it protects marine life and provides for them as well. Marine invasive species add to coral reef stress by removing their natural protectors against algae. Coral reefs globally have begun to experience coral bleaching due to heat waves. Coral bleaching is a coral’s response to stressful conditions and can result in its death.

The invasive lionfish has devastated commercial fisheries and coral reef ecosystems. Countries that depend on Tourism are negatively impacted by a decrease in reef fishes, while fishermen[GU1] [ML2] [GU3] , swimmers, divers, and snorkelers are deterred by the painful sting of the lionfish from its spines. Other species that affect coral reefs are the crown-of-thorns starfish, a type of starfish that has exacerbated the loss of coral due to its share numbers alone. The crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS) is a marine invertebrate that feeds on coral and is found in the Great Barrier Reef. It is native to the Indo-Pacific region. Climate scenarios have created ideal conditions for this starfish to thrive, which negatively impacts hard coral communities.

Presently, to protect coral reefs, coral nurseries have been created to help the reefs. They are artificial reefs that have been devised to help restore reefs and increase marine diversity, abundance, and coral health.

Now, climate change is a crisis that is impacting many ecosystems and has created new marine invasive pathways. The lionfish is currently on the Caribbean region’s tagged species list as it poses a great risk to our marine life. Many Caribbean countries have created campaigns to protect coral reefs. These campaigns are geared towards hunting and reducing the population of lionfish that feed on commercial fish.

Learn more about tagged species like the lionfish in our policy brief, ‘Invasives Species Threaten Livelihoods and Valuable Biodiversity in the Caribbean.’

Read more about this from our sources below!


Policy Brief – Invasives Species Threaten Livelihoods and Valuable Biodiversity in the Caribbean

NOAA – Impacts of Invasive Lionfish

Science News – How slow and steady lionfish win the race against fast prey

Australian Institute of Marine Science – Crown-of-thorns starfish

Australian Institute of Marine Science – Coral bleaching

New Heaven Reef Conservation – Our Coral Nurseries & Artificial Reefs