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WEC Seminars: Michael Allen


Dr. Michael Allen gave a talk at WEC on March 2, 2018. 

Evaluating lionfish management strategies on the West Florida Shelf

Seminar summary

Red lionfish (Pterois volitans) have the potential to have heavy impacts on certain fish tropic levels in the West Florida Shelf if populations are not managed effectively

By: Maria Paula Mugnani

In 1995, the first colony of red lionfish (Pterois volitans) was discovered off the coast of Miami, Florida. Over the last couple of decades, the invasive meso-predator’s populations have grown exponentially as its range has expanded up into the Gulf of Mexico and the West Florida Shelf, a deep-water reef zone off the coast of Panama City. Dr. Michael Allen, Professor of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences in the School of Forest Resources and Conservation (SFRC) at the University of Florida researches fish population and community responses to climate change, restoration efforts and species interactions across a variety of aquatic ecosystems.

In collaboration with a team of fisheries scientists and PhD students from across the country, Dr. Allen utilized Ecopath and Ecosim models to determine the effects of red lionfish on reef fish species interactions across all trophic levels, from small invertebrates and crustaceans like shrimp up to apex predators like groupers. The model explored the impacts of lionfish with a variety of management scenarios and interaction parameters (prey dynamics, mortality rates etc.) to quantify how different tropic levels and species would be affected. Overall, the model indicated that lionfish could cause substantial reductions in populations of mid-trophic level reef omnivores, carnivores and black sea bass (Centropristis striata) due to competitive overlap. These impacts could be mitigated if lionfish were fished more intensively (at least 1.5 times their natural mortality rate), but since the species often congregates in deep-water refuges, this management strategy could prove difficult. Dr. Allen suggested that mitigation attempts involve intensively fishing the species in localized regions at all depths rather than superficially controlling populations across a large geographic scale.

As Director of the Nature Coast Biological Station, Dr. Allen also discussed his outreach work in Cedar Key, where he facilitates extension workshops and multiple 6-week undergraduate internships every year covering a range of aquatic science topics.

Published science article of red lionfish study completed by Dr. Allen and his colleagues in Fisheries:

Chagaris, D., Binion‐Rock, S., Bogdanoff, A., Dahl, K., Granneman, J., Harris, H., … & Patterson, W. F. (2017). An Ecosystem‐Based Approach to Evaluating Impacts and Management of Invasive Lionfish. Fisheries, 42(8), 421-431.


Thanks to Dr. Allen for his talk.

Header photo by Flickr user Tchami.