Impacts of culling invasive lionfish (Pterois spp.) on native reef fish assemblages in Honduras

Lauren Henly

Abstract


The invasion of the Indo-Pacific lionfish (Pterois volitans and P. miles) to western Atlantic and Caribbean coral reefs has been documented as one of the most rapid and damaging marine finfish invasions to date, demonstrating strong negative impacts on native coral reef fish species. Comparatively little is known, however, about the effects of lionfish on whole reef fish assemblages and whether culling programmes actually make a difference reflected in fish assemblage measures. Data on reef fish assemblage metrics and community composition were collected using a diver-operated stereo-video system, in two locations with differing lionfish abundances in Honduras: Utila, where lionfish culling occurs, and Tela where little control is apparent. Lower lionfish abundance where culling occurred was related to a significant increase in the mean abundance, length, biomass, number of genera and trophic level of reef fish compared with sites where lionfish were not controlled, along with differential effects on specific families and overall changes in assemblage composition. Taxon-specific prey selectivity of lionfish, together with lionfish overall abundance, are suggested to be the key factors affecting reef fish assemblage measures.

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