The lionfish expansion in the Aegean Sea in Turkey: A looming potential ecological disaster

Ulman A., TUNÇER S., TÜNEY KIZILKAYA İ., Zilifli A., Alford P., Giovos I.

REGIONAL STUDIES IN MARINE SCIENCE, vol.36, 2020 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier


The lionfish invasion in the Western Atlantic is understood to be one of the worst marine invasions in history, and they have recently just invaded the Mediterranean. Lionfish are a marine `pest' species in invaded areas, mostly due to their venomous spines combined with their insatiable appetites. The devil firefish's (Pterois miles) Mediterranean invasion began in 2012 in Lebanon and has since been rapidly spreading westwards. They are now found along Turkey's entire southern coastline, first reported in Iskenderun Bay in 2015, and are now expanding into the Aegean Sea. New records here are presented for Turkey; in May 2019, two lionfish specimens (Pterois miles, [Bennet, 1828]) were caught in Bodrum, Turkey (Aegean Sea), and just one month later, they were found in Seferhisar (Izmir province), about 100 nautical miles north of Bodrum, now the most northern record for Turkey. They were already reported in the Greek Dodecanese Islands (situated between these two sites), showing their establishment in the area and the necessity for scientists from different countries to work together on accurate assessments. While a second lionfish species, Pterois volitans has recently been reported in Turkey, newer research has shown that P. volitans found in the invaded Caribbean region, is a hybrid species between P. miles and a Pacific lineage encompassing Pterois lunulata/russelii. Thus, in light of this new research, P. volitans should not be confirmed in the Mediterranean from morphological characters alone, which are highly variable, and genetic testing is required to decipher its identity. Along with these new records highlighting the recent expansion of the invaded range, lessons learned from the Caribbean invasion are provided to help prepare Mediterranean scientists and officials to better tackle this invasion. Two control methods are discussed to help reduce populations by getting them from the sea to plates: fishing and culling along with an introduction to local cuisines. (c) 2020 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.