- Associated Press - Thursday, September 10, 2015

GALVESTON, Texas (AP) - Marine experts and trained volunteers have removed hundreds of lionfish from a section of the Gulf of Mexico near Texas in a continuing effort to control the invasive population.

The effort is meant to protect the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary from the lionfish, which researchers say can disrupt a reef’s ecosystem, The Galveston County Daily News (https://bit.ly/1i0BpIx ) reported Thursday.

According to sanctuary Superintendent George Schmahl, healthy coral reefs have little algae. If the lionfish consume the fish populations that normally graze on the algae, then an algae bloom could occur on the reef.

“A coral reef is basically a web of interconnected species that interact on a variety of levels,” Schmahl said. “If you start eliminating certain species it may have significant detrimental impacts to the reef.”

In a four-day invitational from Aug. 31 to Sept. 3, trained volunteer divers captured 317 lionfish. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued one-time, specialized permits for the spearfishing event.

The red-and-white zebra striped fish was first spotted in 2011 by divers in the Flower Garden Banks about 115 miles off the Galveston coast.

Researchers began removing the fish in the sanctuary in 2013.

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Information from: The Galveston County Daily News, https://www.galvnews.com

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