Lionfish swim near a trap under the sea near Florida. (AP)

Lionfish swim near a trap under the sea near Florida. (AP)

These lionfish are caught in a modified lobster trap. These fish have huge appetites that can wreck the environment they live in.  (AP)

These lionfish are caught in a modified lobster trap. These fish have huge appetites that can wreck the environment they live in. (AP)

Scientists are looking at new traps that might be better for capturing the beautiful but destructive invaders. (AP)

Scientists are looking at new traps that might be better for capturing the beautiful but destructive invaders. (AP)

Keeping lionfish in captivity, like the Audubon Aquarium, lets people appreciate their beauty. (AP)

Keeping lionfish in captivity, like the Audubon Aquarium, lets people appreciate their beauty. (AP)

Trapping Lionfish

Posted: November 1, 2020

Looks can be deceiving. Lionfish are a good example of that. They are beautiful, but deadly. They damage ocean reefs. They overpopulate quickly, forcing native fish out. They are aggressive and harmful––even to humans. The quest is on to find a good way to remove these destructive fish from ocean habitats where they don’t belong.

Scientists think traps could control the lionfish population. They are testing two kinds of traps. One is a lobster trap with a skinny opening. It’s the perfect size for a lionfish, but too small for a lobster.

The other trap uses a vertical sheet of lattice as a lionfish lure. Lattice is a type of plastic, wood, or metal fencing. But is it a good fish trap?

Steven Gittings works with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. He invented the pop-up trap using plastic lattice, frames, and nets. When the trap hits the ocean floor, its net opens. The net stays flat until it is pulled up. The only fish caught are the ones around the pop-up when the nets are closed.

Lionfish hang out near anything that sticks up from the bottom of the ocean. A study in the journal PLOS ONE found that the lattice traps snagged about 10 lionfish for every other fish caught. The traps seem to work!

Test traps have worked well in shallow waters. But they don’t catch as many lionfish in deep waters. Maybe lionfish prefer shallow places. Or maybe the traps need to be tweaked for the depths.

Overall, scientists think the new lionfish traps are worth investing in. Maybe they should come with a warning for unsuspecting lionfish. After all, a lionfish’s bright colors and showy fins are warnings to their prey!