Risk screen of lionfishes, Pterois, Dendrochirus, and Parapterois, for southeastern United States coastal waters of the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean.
The trade in marine ornamental fishes includes over 1800 species and is regarded as an introduction source for non-native fishes. Given this large pool of potential invaders, a targeted approach that evaluates risk for groups of fishes with demonstrated invasion history is both practical and feasible. In this way, proactive risk management frameworks can be used to identify risky species prior to introduction. Though the establishment of introduced marine ornamental species is uncommon, the invasion of Pterois volitans and P. miles in the western Atlantic Ocean has demonstrated the risks associated with the marine ornamental industry. These species, along with several other lionfishes, are regularly imported into the United States. We used the Aquatic Species Invasiveness Screening Kit to evaluate the risk of invasion for 14 species of traded lionfishes in the genera Pterois, Dendrochirus, and Parapterois for southeastern United States coastal waters of the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean. The lionfish invasion is widely considered to be one of the worst marine invasions to date. Despite this, risk associated with the trade of lionfishes was estimated to be low, with notable exceptions. We identify Pterois russelii, Pterois lunulata, and Dendrochirus brachypterus as species with potentially elevated invasion risk. State and federal management agencies within the western Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean should consider a detailed evaluation of these species to inform management action. This study is the one of the largest risk screening application of marine fishes to date and demonstrates the utility of prioritizing risk assessment of taxa found in pathways with related or otherwise similar species with previous invasion history.