Striking a balance with the lionfish: Habitat suitability modeling and social awareness measures in the Southern Caribbean (2015-2016)

The invasive venomous Pterios volitans (Red Lionfish) is a well-established species in many parts of the Caribbean Sea and Western Atlantic Ocean. It currently poses as a serious threat to the existing reef fish biodiversity in Tobago which can negatively impact the trophic dynamics by altering the structure of native fish communities. Thus the present study aims to develop a suitability model for lionfish in Tobago as a first step for conservation measure. Physico-chemical, food availability and micro habitat structure data which act as driving factors for lionfish population density will be considered as model inputs. Data will be collected from both in-situ measurement and secondary sources i.e. satellite images. GIS based multi-criteria decision technique will be used to develop the lionfish habitat model considering the model inputs. The model will describe the spatial suitability based on observed model inputs for lionfish at the adult stage. Results of the present study will provide insight into which location requires intense mitigation action to reduce the impact of lionfish. This will promote collaboration and communication between main stakeholders further enhancing social awareness in fishing communities affected.

Objectives

  • To determine and compare the temporal variations of abiotic and biotic parameters in Buccoo Reef and Charlottville, Tobago during the dry and wet seasons.
  • To quantify and compare the spatial distribution of lionfish using discrete habitat classes derived from optimum conditions in Buccoo Reef and Charlottville.
  • To establish successful social awareness among main stakeholders affected by the lionfish invasion.

Study location / Sample sites

For 2015-2016 field measurements were carried out at Buccoo Reef, Man-O-War Bay and Speyside: