The lionfish team has recently finished their fish abundance surveys, which are undertaken every three months. They visited sixteen reef patches in the Exuma Sound over three days. There are generally two or three recorders (who need to have top notch fish identification skills!). Two team members jump in onto the patch and do roving surveys and record all the fish they can see. Since the patches are part of a lionfish removal versus non-removal comparison study, they also record the number and size of both lionfish and competitors for lionfish, such as groupers.
Next, they lay three random transects over the reef and record the species and size of all the fish within one meter of the transect tape. The third recorder lays two transects on the sand on either side of the reef – there’s much fewer fish out there! Finally, if the site is a lionfish removal site, they spear all the lionfish on the patch and take them back to the lab for dissection.
The team was out on the boat the couple of days before tropical storm Chantal was supposed to hit Eleuthera and the weather was crazy! It could change from bright sunshine to lashing rain and waves crashing over the bow in minutes. Despite those moments, the team had a fun time and saw some pretty cool stuff; there was an octopus on one transect, as well as a Dwarf seahorse and a pipefish near different patches.
They also saw lots of fish: Ocean triggerfish, shoals of juvenile tomtate, beautiful juvenile queen angelfish, butterflyfish, and the occasional barracuda. They found very few lionfish, which was somewhat disappointing for the guys who were dying to spear them!
Finally, a big thank-you to a great team – Jocelyn and Kate, Holly, the SFU team, Luis, Severin, and Silvan (for your time and expertise), and Christian for coming out to spear some lionfish. It was a lot of fun!