Sunday, September 07, 2008

(Photo U of Oregon)

The headlines are frightening.

"Venomous lionfish prowls fragile Caribbean waters"

In this Associated press article (Aug 13, 2008), David McFadden writes that
"A maroon-striped marauder with venomous spikes is rapidly multiplying in the Caribbean's warm waters, swallowing native species, stinging divers and generally wreaking havoc on an ecologically delicate region. The red lionfish, a tropical native of the Indian and Pacific oceans that probably escaped from a Florida fish tank, is showing up everywhere — from the coasts of Cuba and Hispaniola to Little Cayman's pristine Bloody Bay Wall, one of the region's prime destinations for divers."
As a frequent diver in this area as well as Tonga, Belize, Bonaire, Florida and other places this is a very distressing development. We divers are the original diversity supporters. We know that all of the vibrancy in the oceans are the result of species health and diversity. The lionfish seriously threatens this.
"Wherever it appears, the adaptable predator corners fish and crustaceans up to half its size with its billowy fins and sucks them down in one violent gulp. Research teams observed one lionfish eating 20 small fish in less than 30 minutes.

"This may very well become the most devastating marine invasion in history," said Mark Hixon, an Oregon State University marine ecology expert who compared lionfish to a plague of locusts. "There is probably no way to stop the invasion completely."
Most devastating in history! This is a very surprising escalation of the attack of invasive species. It is closer to the devastating Black Sea invasion by jellyfish caused by the collapse of that ecosystem's environmental quality.

"A white creature with maroon stripes, the red lionfish has the face of an alien and the ribbony look of something that survived a paper shredder — with poisonous spikes along its spine to ward off enemies. The invasion is similar to that of other aquarium escapees such as walking catfish and caulerpa, a fast-growing form of algae known as "killer seaweed" for its ability to crowd out native plants. The catfish are now common in South Florida, where they threaten smaller fish in wetlands and fish farms."
We are all aware of the cases of invasives that from time to time attract the attention of the news media. The Zebra Mussel is one example of a well covered invasive. Here is another:
"In Africa, the Nile Perch rendered more than 200 fish species extinct when it was introduced into Lake Victoria. The World Conservation Union calls it one of the 100 worst alien species invasions"
This is the big threat to the homeostasis of ecosystems - the extinction of species which are vital to the balance of any ecosystem and are necessary for the economic activity of human communites as well as potentially holding important genetic information for future use.

"Those kinds of things happen repeatedly in fresh water," Hixon said. "But we've not seen such a large predatory invasion in the ocean before."

For us as students of CZM and coastal policy this threat of invasives is a very important POLICY challenge.
  • How do we nail down the origins and causes of invasivs?
  • How do we force policymakers to quickly develop new laws and regulations to slow or halt the further spread of invasives?
  • How do we attack the invasives, bring them under control and reestablish the origina ecosystem?

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