Lionfish University Ready to Test Revolutionary Tool in the War on Invasive Lionfish

Stacy Frank, one of the founders of Lionfish University, with the speared lionfish dive flag she helped pioneer.

Invasive lionfish have been winning the war against them for some time with populations growing 2,000% to 20,000% in just a few years. Local victories are possible where culls by divers can be conducted regularly, but that is isolated to the direct region that is dived. In a world where fishing has been placing most species of fish at risk, traditional fishing techniques are not effective with lionfish.

Lionfish University (a US-based non profit dedicated to fighting and educating about the invasive lionfish invasion) had a presence at DEMA Show 2015 in Orlando and has been a leader in advocating for lionfish culls and to have them be eaten for several years.

Areas away from culls still have lionfish and the numbers continue to grow. Also, recent studies have found that lionfish are quite comfortable living at great depths. Leaving it almost impossible to for divers to reach and have access to all areas where lionfish can live and reproduce.

Lionfish University is ready to test a new weapon in the war on the invasive lionfish of the Western Atlantic and Caribbean. Scientists working with Lionfish University and Team Frapper have pioneered the lionfish trap. The trap is special because it uses visual recognition systems to identify lionfish, allowing them into the trap and any other species will be released. A double door system allows for the trap to analyze the fish it has caught and determine if it is a desired lionfish or not. If a lionfish is recognized it opens the inner door to the trap, otherwise it opens the outer door to release the fish back into the environment.

Prototype lionfish trap. Lionfish University plans to test the smart trap this spring.

Funding and testing will begin in spring. If testing goes well, Lionfish University hopes to deploy the traps to all areas affected by this invasive species. The Frap Trap, a kind of smart trap, can work 24 hours a day and in all depth ranges while covering far more area than divers are able to. Plus, the traps will require far less labor. Let’s hope testing goes well.

To learn more, check out www.lionfishuniversity.org.

By Grant Graves