University research discovers new alien species in Maltese waters

Research finds lowfin chub and the poisonous lionfish species, adding to the list of alien tropical reef species found in Maltese waters

The Conservation Biology Research Group at the Department of Biology, University of Malta has discovered other alien species in Maltese waters, as part of its biodiversity research.  

The CBRG-UoM presented several of its published discoveries at the International workshop on invasive species in Ischia in May, so as to discuss the best way forward in the Mediterranean to adapt to the various ongoing marine environmental changes.

Such research is a long-term effort that needs responsible action from researchers and stakeholders in order to find ways to adapt and consider management measures in the face of observed impacts of increasing presence of new alien species and environmental changes in our seas. 

This ongoing research has introduced two new additions to the list of alien tropical reef species found in Maltese waters, which include the lowfin chub and the poisonous lionfish species.  Apart from identifying the species morphologically and genetically, the ongoing research also investigates the possible impacts of the different alien species on local fish communities and habitats as part of conservation research.  

These research outcomes are leading to scientific publications which contribute new information to improve the species’ identification tools, apart from reporting their local presence.

Collaboration with sea-users has been part of this research group’s achievements through the many years of research work, so as to allow greater stakeholder participation, learning and communication to efficiently target conservation measures in the near future.  

Alien species may be dangerous if not recognised as such by fishermen or sport fishers who are not familiar with the strange species in these waters.  Certain species, such as the lionfish, may be dangerous to handle but delicious to eat and therefore the latter may be exploited by fishers, to control their numbers using the necessary safety precautions.  The toxins of the lionfish are contained only within the fish's spines, so lionfish are a common food item in their native range throughout the South Pacific and Indian Oceans.