Researcher on Island to Study Effects of Lionfish on Local Fish

From February until June, Ms. Tineke Van Bussel, a Master’s Degree student researcher at the Vrije Universiteit of Amsterdam will be looking at the pressure that the invasive lionfish is having on local fish species, particularly fish which are already in low abundance in the waters surrounding St. Maarten. The St. Maarten Nature Foundation will be hosting Ms. Van Bussel for the duration of her research.


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Ms. Van Bussel will be researching the effects lionfish are having on the food resources of native St. Maarten fish species. "It is essential to know to what extent these species are both endangering juvenile fish and how they are competing for food with adult fish. For example; certain species of snapper may be badly affected not only by lionfish eating young snapper, but also because lionfish eat the same food snappers do. With the results we can suggest measures for the protection of certain fish species that are being most affected by the lionfish invasion," commented Ms. Van Bussel. Further research will also look at how much the lionfish are effecting the fish population on reefs both within the Man of War Shoal Marine Park and on reefs outside of it and how it affects the complex food web that exists on coral reefs.

Lionfish are an invasive venomous fish that can inflict a painful and sometimes fatal sting. Lionfish are usually found in the Indian and Pacific Oceans but were introduced into the Atlantic thru the aquarium trade. Native fish species don’t recognize the Lionfish as a threat so they are unable to defend themselves against it. In other places were lionfish were spotted there are hardly any snappers and grouper left because those are the type of fish the lionfish likes to eat.

The Nature Foundation encourages fishermen, divers and all those who may have captured or sighted lionfish to report their catch or sightings to the Nature Foundation through calling 5270490 or via email at ma*****@na*****************.org.