Invasive species represent the second most significant cause of species extinction worldwide after habitat destruction, and in islands, they are undisputedly first. The impacts of alien invasive species are immense, insidious, and usually irreversible - IUCN

Expedition Lionfish

 

South Florida: June 27 - 29, 2013

 

Since the species first appeared in Florida waters in the mid-1980s, lionfish populations have expanded throughout the Atlantic, Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico and now threaten native reef ecosystems. The introduction of this exotic species with no natural predators poses the danger of destabilizing the delicate natural balance of our local waters. Fisheries that we depend on for food, sport, and tourism are endangered by the threat of ecosystem failure brought on by the invasive lionfish.

 

In a concerted effort to address this problem, OceanGate organized Expedition Lionfish to take researchers, media, and sponsors to the depths off the southeast Florida coast on June 27-28 to study the invasive lionfish aboard our manned submersible Antipodes.  On June 29, OceanGate and its expedition partners hosted a science/media summit and lionfish tasting in order to bring awareness to the threat lionfish pose to  Atlantic, Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico ecosystems.

 

The goals of our expedition, all of which were achieved or surpassed, were to:

 

  • Raise public awareness of lionfish as an invasive species;
  • Improve our understanding of lionfish distributions and behaviors; and
  • Test and evaluate methods for the lionfish remediation.

 

 

Background

 

In January 2012, Seattle-based OceanGate Inc. began a year-long expedition to Miami, Florida, the primary focus of which was to conduct research in conjunction with the Miami-Dade Artificial Reefs Program.  The nine sites visited by Antipodes and her crew included several known wrecks, including the Spirit of Hemingway and Mary Star of the Sea, though some of the dives yielded surprises. One site yielded the wreck of a WWII-era Marine fighter plane, which the US Navy subsequently identified as a Grumman F6F Hellcat. Locating the Hellcat was only one of several discoveries the OceanGate team made during the Miami Expedition 2012. While marine researchers were aware that the lionfish was an increasingly invasive species in South Florida waters, the extensive prevalence of the fish as noted during OceanGate dives, even at depths as great as 70 meters, has pointed to the need for an ongoing investigation of the species and its effects on the local marine habitat.

 

Antipodes: Lionfish Research Dives

 

During the expedition’s June 27-28 dives, OceanGate’s professional crew was supplemented by leading scientists, select media, and sponsors to conduct research on the invasive lionfish in the depths off southeast Florida. The dives allowed researchers to observe population densities, distribution, and behaviors below diver depth. Data collected included HD video recordings and 2D sonar scans; in order to raise awareness of the challenges with invasive species, video was made available to the media and participants.

 

Summit and Tasting

 

The final day of the expedition, June 29, was dedicated to a summary review of scientific observations and video captured during the expedition. The summit, hosted at the Nova Southeastern University Oceanographic Center in Dania Beach, featured panel discussions by leading experts on aquatic invasive species and was open to the public and members of the media. The event concluded with a lionfish tasting, at which attendees were shown how to prepare lionfish for cooking.

 

Moderators and panelists included: Dr. Stephanie Green, Oregon State University; Dr. David Kerstetter, Nova Southeastern University; Dr. Keene Haywood, University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science; Dan Ellinor, John Hunt, and Keith Mille, Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission; Lad Akins, REEF; Matthew Johnston, NSU. Dr. Steve Gittings, Science Program Manager, NOAA National Marine Sanctuary Program; Dr. Charles Messing, NSU; Dr. Tammy Frank, NSU..

 

Participating Researchers

 

For additional information on these researchers, click here.

 

Lad Akins

Director of Special Projects, Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF)

Dr. Tamara Frank

Professor of Oceanography, Nova Southeastern University; Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Dr. Steve Gittings

Chief Scientist, National Marine Sanctuary Program, NOAA

Dr. Stephanie Green

Postdoctoral Researcher, Oregon State University; Corvallis, Oregon

Dr. Keene Haywood

Director of Education, Exploration Science Program, University of Miami, Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy; Miami, Florida

Dr. David Kerstetter

Research Scientist & Adjunct Professor, Nova Southeastern University; Fort Lauderdale, Florida

 

Dr. Charles Messing

Professor of Oceanography, Nova Southeastern University; Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Dr. Richard Spieler

Professor and Director of Academic Programs, Nova Southeastern University; Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Dan Ellinor

Commercial Liaison, Division of Marine Fisheries Management, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission; Tallahassee, Florida

John Hunt

Program Administrator, Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, South Region, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission; Marathon, Florida

Dr. Pat Quinn

Beach and Marine Resources Section, Broward County Natural Resources Planning & Management Division; Fort Lauderdale, Florida

News

GHRI Sharks

Established in 1999, the Guy Harvey Research Institute (GHRI) is a collaboration between the renowned marine artist, scientist and explorer, Dr. Guy Harvey, and Nova Southeastern University's Oceanographic Center. The mission of the GHRI is to provide the scientific information necessary to understand, conserve, and effectively manage the world's marine fishes and their ecosystems. The GHRI is one of only a handful of private organizations dedicated exclusively to the science-based conservation of marine fish populations and biodiversity. The research, education and outreach activities of the GHRI are supported by the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, AFTCO Inc., extramural research grants, philanthropic donations by private businesses and individuals, and NSU. Track the sharks tagged by the GHRI with our web app.

 

 

Expedition Lionfish

Lionfish populations have expanded throughout the Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico and threaten native reef ecosystems. The introduction of an exotic species with no natural predators threatens to destabilize the delicate natural balance of our local waters. OceanGate's professional crew, supplemented by leading researchers and select expedition participants, will execute at least four dives over two days utilizing a high power fish collection system to capture lionfish.

 

 

GIGA

Global Invertebrate Genomics Alliance - Describing the wide functional and structural diversity of invertebrates requires an integrated approach that includes not only traditional biological sciences (e.g., anatomy, ecology, behavior, physiology, paleontology), but the burgeoning interdisciplinary efforts of genomics. Following on the success of the human genome project and the current progress of the vertebrate Genome 10K project (Genome 10K Community of Scientists, 2009), GIGA proposes to assemble or assist in the coordination and collection of samples spanning the broad spectrum of (non-insect/ non-nematode) invertebrate phylogenetic diversity suitable for whole-genome sequencing.

 

 

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