The population of lionfish throughout Bermuda’s waters has increased dramatically since the first fish was sighted 2000. This invasive species poses a threat to the health of Bermuda’s reef ecosystems as it can significantly reduce populations of smaller native fish on coral reefs, including economically and ecologically important species. A more complete understanding of the ecology and population dynamics of lionfish is vital to help minimize negative impacts on native fish species and ecosystems, as well as secondary impacts on fisheries, tourism, and public health.

Dr. Gretchen Goodbody-Gringley, BIOS Postdoctoral Researcher, will be collaborating with the Bermuda Zoological Society (BZS), the Bermuda Department of Environmental Protection and the Ocean Support Foundation, to study Bermuda’s lionfish population after receiving a grant from Darwin Plus: Overseas Territories Environment and Climate Fund.

The “Darwin Plus” fund, created by the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), Department for International Development (DFID) and Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), aims to financially assist collaborative projects that draw on regional biodiversity expertise. By providing an ongoing source of coordinated support for research, conservation, and management projects, “Darwin Plus” grants also help develop long-term strategic outcomes for a variety of environmental issues, such as invasive species.

As principal investigator on the grant, Dr. Goodbody-Gringley will be leading a team of scientists in efforts to generate the tools and data required to successfully implement the Bermuda Lionfish Control Plan currently being developed by the Bermuda Lionfish Taskforce. When asked about the newly formed collaboration, Dr. Goodbody-Gringley said, “We are excited to work together as a cohesive team on such an important environmental issue. Combining cutting edge scientific research with conservation initiatives will greatly improve our ability to control this invasive species in Bermuda.”

The Bermuda Invasive Lionfish Control Initiative, as the project is called, will gather data on lionfish abundance and distribution to help develop targeted removal plans. A key component of the project will be a partnership with local commercial fishermen to facilitate large-scale, long-term removal of lionfish from deeper waters, which would reduce population numbers even further.  Scientists will also be studying lionfish feeding and reproductive ecology to determine the full impact of lionfish on the local ecosystem.