Lionfish Trap Research

Trap Research

We’re coordinating with NOAA and Coast Watch Alliance to fund this lionfish trap research, which is also being funded by the Florida FWC. The traps are currently in the testing phase.

Why Traps?

Lionfish trap researchOver the last 30 years, invasive lionfish populations have exploded throughout the western Atlantic, the Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico. Now is the time to act.

Culling by divers in the Cayman Islands has been very successful so far, and is good for removing large lionfish, which cause the most damage to vulnerable reef ecosystems. But divers can only go so deep – the limit for recreational diving is 130 ft (40 m). Meanwhile, invasive lionfish have been spotted in huge numbers below that, and can be found up to 1000 ft deep! If we’re really going to make a difference, culling alone isn’t going to cut it.

Traps are the answer. We’re working with Dr. Steve Gittings of NOAA to develop an effective lionfish trap for use in the invaded areas.

The new trap is designed to:

  • Only attract lionfish, so native species aren’t harmed.
  • Be made from inexpensive, common materials, so anyone in the community can get involved.
  • Be lightweight, for easy transport, deployment and retrieval using small boats.
  • Prevent “ghost fishing”, where lost nets continue to catch fish.

Trap design

The traps are made up of three parts: a frame, a net, and a FAD.

  • The frame is the outer structure of the trap. It consists of two hinged “jaws”, which open up when the trap is set and close again when it’s retrieved. A fully-open trap is 6 ft in diameter.
  • ​The net is attached to the frame, and scoops up the lionfish when the trap is retrieved. The latest design uses a “purse” net, which billows out to surround the captured fish and reduces drag, making it easier to pull up.
  • ​FAD stands for fish aggregating device, and it’s a structure that attracts the lionfish. The traps don’t use any bait, to reduce the risk of catching native species. The FAD opens up when the trap is set – just like a pop-up greeting card.

The traps are lightweight, inexpensive, and easy to build and deploy. Traps can also be strung together, so multiple traps can be hauled up from a single location. For more information on the trap’s design and materials, click here.