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Current Field Projects

In addition to conducting on-site research projects at Long Island Aquarium, Aquarium staff members participate in projects that take them out in the field.

Biological Invasion of the Indo-Pacific Lionfish (Pterois volitans) Along the Atlantic Coast of North America

The occurrence of lionfish (Pteroisvolitans) is reported from the western Atlantic Ocean. Adults were collected off the coasts of North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, and juveniles were collected along the shore of Long Island, New York. Lionfish have also been found around Bermuda. Indigenous to tropical waters of the western Pacific, the lionfish’s occurrence along the eastern coast of the United States represents a human-induced introduction. Distribution of adults suggests lionfish are surviving in the western Atlantic and the capture of juveniles provides putative evidence of reproduction. The most likely pathway of introduction is Aquarium releases, but introduction via ballast water cannot be ruled out. The ecosystem of the southeastern United States continental shelf is already undergoing change: reef fish communities are becoming more tropical and many fish species are overfished. These ongoing changes, along with limited information regarding the biology of P. volitans, make predictions of long-term effects of the introduction difficult. This discovery represents the first apparently successful introduction of a marine fish from the western Pacific to the Atlantic coastal waters of the United States.

Project Team: Todd Gardner, Paula E. Whitfield, Stephen P. Vives, Matthew R. Gilligan, Walter R. Courtenay Jr., G. Carleton Ray, and Jonathan A. Hare.