From June 27 to 29, a five-person manned submersible, Antipodes operated by OceanGate, Inc., will take scientists on a series of dives to study the growing invasive lionfish (Pterois volitans and P. miles) population in South Florida waters. The use of the submersible creates an unprecedented opportunity for real-time scientific observation of lionfish in areas below diver depth. The goal of the diving expeditions and ensuing panel discussions is to foster long-term collaboration among scientists to halt the unprecedented expansion of this species.
“We are looking forward to participating in this event because of the absolute need to understand the extent the species is spreading and how it affects these deeper environments,” said Keene Haywood, Director of Education for the University of Miami Abess Center for Ecosystem Science & Policy and the new Master of Professional Science – Exploration Science program. “Using the submersible is a good example of basic exploration to document a problem. In the past, most manned submersible dives were for general observation or collecting. In this case, the technology is being used to look at a specific environmental problem, and try to come up with management strategies. This issue illustrates the unanticipated consequences of introducing non-native species and how its impact can go beyond areas where humans regularly visit.”
A predator known for its venomous spines, with no known aquatic predators and dramatically increased numbers in the waters of Florida, the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico, lionfish are creating serious threats to the ecology of the southern Atlantic seaboard. The spread of this invasive species could also have significant implications on Florida’s multi-billion dollar fishing and tourism industries.
Lionfish – Neil Hammerschlag
“This expedition illustrates how exploration and conservation are interdependent and critical for tackling complex problems. In addition, we need to develop innovative policies for dealing with invasives. In the case of lionfish, some tasty recipes may go a long way toward getting fishing folks in the Atlantic to start targeting them for food, but we also need to explore other long term options for their elimination,” he added.
Antipodes will be launched from Nova Southeastern University’s Oceanographic Center in Port Everglades, Florida. The mission is supported by NSU and the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, and will conclude on Saturday, June 29, with a panel of experts on aquatic invasive species, which will feature Haywood.
For the full agenda, click here.