Tackling the lionfish invasion in the Mediterranean. the EU-LIFE RELIONMED Project: progress and results
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The lionfish invasion in the Western Atlantic has been characterised as one of the most ecologically harmful marine fish introductions to date; associated with habitat modifications, and severe impacts on native communities. In the Mediterranean, lionfish followed similar expansion trends and raised significant concerns among the scientific community due to its potential to cause devastating ecological and socioeconomic impacts. The coastal ecosystems of Cyprus, near the Suez Canal, are amongst the first Mediterranean waters to be affected by the lionfish invasion. Cyprus sentinel location offers therefore, an ideal site for the development of an early warning and rapid response system of marine bioinvasions. RELIONMED (Preventing a LIONfish invasion in the MEDiterranean through early response and targeted REmoval) is a four-year project, funded by the EU LIFE instrument, aiming to make Cyprus the first line of defence against the invasion of lionfish in the Mediterranean. The project has started successfully on September 2017 with a number of early (preparatory) project actions including stakeholder consultation and baseline assessment of social awareness, biological analyses of a small lionfish sample, and the development of a lionfish risk assessment following the guidelines of the Regulation 1143/2014 to include the species in the EU IAS priority list. Forthcoming project’s actions strongly rely on citizen scientists’ and stakeholders’ participation and RELIONMED aims to develop the capacity and tools for control of lionfish, particularly in priority habitats. Preliminary results such as early maturity, high growth rates, generalist diet, and reproduction throughout the year indicate that lionfish can become a ferocious invader for the basin and RELIONMED calls for regional collaborations and coordinated management measures against lionfish invasion in the basin.
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