Melbourne: Groupers are helping save
the fish population by limiting the invasion of lionfish on
Caribbean coral reefs, according to a new study.
The discovery by a international research team, led
by Prof Peter Mumby of The University of Queensland, has been
in published in the `PLoS One` journal.
Lionfish are not found naturally in the Caribbean and
it is believed they many have been released from aquariums in
the US and eventually made their way to the Bahamas in 2004.
Professor Mumby said Lionfish numbers have increased
dramatically in the past few years and they have now invaded
the entire Caribbean.
"Although lionfish are among the most beautiful fish
in the sea, they are voracious predators of small fish and
conservationists are concerned about their impact on native
"In 2006 we did not encounter any lionfish, but by
2010 they were at all of our 12 study sites. However, the
number of lionfish was 10 times lower in reefs with lots of
large groupers," he said.
The team surveyed reefs inside and outside the Exuma
Cays Land and Sea Park, which are some of the most diverse
marine reserves in Caribbean, having been established in 1959.
"With long-term protection from fishing, grouper
numbers are among the highest in the Caribbean in these marine
reserves and we believe that groupers are eating enough
lionfish to limit their invasion on the reefs," Mumby said.
The lionfish (Pterois volitans) are naturally found in
the Indian and Pacific Oceans, but have invaded the Atlantic.
Lionfish have highly venomous spines to protect them from