Early Detection and Rapid Response: Removal of Newly Introduced Non-native Marine Fishes to Prevent Invasions

Science Center Objects

USGS WARC works with partners on early detection and rapid response (ED/RR) efforts, rapidly removing newly introduced non-native marine fishes from Florida’s coastal waters to prevent invasions. 

Blotched foxface rabbitfish (Siganus unimaculatus)

A blotched foxface rabbitfish (Siganus unimaculatus) was spotted off the coast of Florida and removed with the help of USGS WARC, REEF, and the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science. Read more about this non-native fish: https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?SpeciesID=3094

(Credit: James Fatherree, Hillsborough Community College. )

The Science Issue and Relevance: Non-native marine fishes, such as the Indo-Pacific lionfishes (Pterois volitans and P. miles), can enter U.S. coastal waters through a variety of means, most commonly as released aquarium pets. These fishes can damage ecosystems by competing with and preying on native species, such as commercially or recreationally important fishes. Once a population is established and begins reproducing, it is difficult to manage or eliminate. Therefore, it is essential that invaders are quickly detected, identified and removed prior to the establishment of breeding populations. USGS WARC works with partners on early detection and rapid response (ED/RR) efforts, rapidly removing newly introduced non-native marine fishes from Florida’s coastal waters to prevent invasions. 

 

Methodology for Addressing the Issue: Our team, which consists of USGS WARC, Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science, and REEF, quickly removes new non-native marine fishes from Florida’s coastal waters whenever feasible. The team focuses our efforts on newly introduced species that have not yet developed breeding populations. Sightings of non-native fishes are received from several sources, including citizen scientists through REEF’s exotic species sighting program. USGS WARC coordinates removals with local jurisdictions and agencies, including securing permits and coordinating/notifying stakeholders. Staff from the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science coordinate field operations, including site reconnaissance, removal of fishes, and housing and care of captured non-native marine fishes in an exhibit dedicated to educating the public about the potential harm of non-native species.

Non-native marine fish caught in Florida taken to Frost Museum

Dane Tolluck, an employee of the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science, transfers a non-native yellow tang into a holding tank at the museum. The fish was detected off of South Florida and quickly removed by a team of divers from the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science and REEF, an early detection rapid response (EDRR) effort coordinated by the USGS. 

(Credit: Courtesy of Lad Akins)

 

After receiving a report of a non-native marine fish sighting, the team verifies the validity of the report to the extent possible from photos and interviews. If the fish’s identity is confirmed and removal is deemed possible, Frost Science staff, who are experienced marine collectors, coordinate the field effort. USGS WARC notifies stakeholders in the immediate and adjacent jurisdictions; obtains collection permits; and coordinates with local landholders, law enforcement, and park administrators. Once the fish has been captured, stakeholders are notified and USGS WARC works with the Florida Museum to catalogue the specimen. Data from reports of non-native marine fishes are added to the USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species database, and species profiles are written for new species and posted online. 

 

Future Steps: 

As citizen scientists report non-native marine fishes off the Florida coast, USGS WARC and partners will continue to conduct ED/RR efforts to help prevent the introduction and spread of these potentially problematic species.

Non-native fishes exhibit at Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science

Non-native fishes exhibit at the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science

(Credit: Andy Dehart, Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science. Public domain.)

Non-native fishes exhibit at Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science

Non-native fishes exhibit at the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science

(Credit: Andy Dehart, Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science. Public domain.)