Today the the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) announced a West Pacific Ocean fish species commonly known as the blotched foxface rabbitfish (Siganus unimaculatus) was successfully captured off Dania Beach, Florida. According to the USGS, this is the first record of the species outside of the western Pacific Ocean.
While there is no indication that species has established itself in Florida waters, scientists are not taking any chances. “The lionfish has definitely changed the way we think about marine fish invasions,” said Pam Schofield, USGS Fish Biologist. “Lionfish spread incredibly fast and now it occupies an enormous invaded range where it negatively impacts native marine life. We know that we need to be vigilant when it comes to future introductions.”
The live capture of the blotched foxface rabbitfish was a coordinated effort between USGS and Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) and occurred within 24 hours of the species first being spotted by scuba diver.
“Any organism outside its normal range has the potential to cause negative impacts,” said Lad Akins, Director of Special Projects for REEF. “If we wait to see what those impacts are going to be, it’s too late–they’ve already happened.”
The rabbitfish is the 36th non-native marine fish species documented in Florida waters. Most of the non-native reef fish species are, according to the USGS, the result of intentional or accidental releases of aquarium fishes. Non-native marine fish occurrences are documented in the USGS’ Nonindigenous Aquatic Species database.