Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

M.S. Marine Biology

First Advisor

Nicholas Funicelli

Second Advisor

Matthew Johnston


Lionfish (Pterois volitans and Pterois miles) are the first recorded invasive piscivore in the Caribbean and have become a threat to native species. As generalist consumers, lionfish have a broad diet and reduce prey and competitor abundance and juvenile recruitment. To confront this problem, this paper serves to review all of the current and alternative future controls available to manage lionfish populations in the Western Atlantic and determine where focus is lacking. Derby and cull efforts are the only management efforts in place and are not effective in their current state as these local events have short-term benefits, but lionfish populations recover quickly. Alternative strategies to culls include the use of biological controls and genetic engineering. Both strategies have their associated risks and ethical concerns, but may provide significant levels of control. Biological control agents include the introduction of parasites or disease from their native range that specifically target lionfish or the recovery and conditioning of natural Western Atlantic predators to consume lionfish. Genetic modification is gaining public acceptance for use against pest species and therefore, if made as safe as possible, could provide some of the best results for controlling lionfish. Quantitative analysis of derby and cull data revealed that focus is lacking in key locations throughout the Western Atlantic such as Cuba and the Meso-American Barrier Reef. The vast majority of derbies were located along the U.S. Eastern and Gulf coast. However, lionfish controls must implement in regions of the greatest larval connectivity to reduce the amount of larval recruitment and subsequent recovery of adult populations after local removals. Monthly, basin-wide removals of 20% lionfish biomass were determined to be the most effective strategy, reducing lionfish biomass to near-zero levels in only 36 months. Therefore, to effectively reduce lionfish biomass in the Western Atlantic, an international strategy is needed to produce management efforts in all regions simultaneously.