Invasive species can take a heavy environmental and economic toll on a region, not only by outcompeting or filling the niches of ecologically and economically important species, but also due to the high cost of their prevention and control. Researchers at Cornell University estimate that invasive species are costing Americans approximately $137 billion every year (Pimentel et al. 2000).

Lionfish are an invasive species that are now established on the Atlantic Coast from North Carolina to Florida, throughout the Caribbean, and in the Gulf of Mexico. The fish deplete native marine fish and invertebrates and can sting humans with their venomous spines. Since they have no natural predators in their current range in the United States, it is thought that lionfish may outcompete or fill niches left by native and economically important fish in the region. Currently, lionfish have been detected in six National Parks in South Florida and the U.S. Virgin Islands (Biscayne NP, Dry Tortugas NP, Everglades NP, Buck Island Reef National Monument, and Virgin Islands NP/VI Coral Reef National Monument). It is anticipated that lionfish populations will continue to grow in current areas and that they are also likely to invade the Gulf Islands National Seashore and Canaveral National Seashore in the near future.

In order to address the threat that invasive lionfish pose to ecological integrity as well as risks to visitor safety in parks, the U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution supported the National Park Service (NPS) in a coordinated collaborative effort to address the lionfish threat. U.S. Institute staff assisted NPS in convening, designing, and facilitating a webinar and four-day workshop in Miami, Fla., in September 2011.

The goal of the webinar and workshop was to develop a National Park Service-wide Lionfish Response Plan to provide the NPS with a roadmap to address the growing intensity of the lionfish invasion at its earliest stages in order to limit long-term and widespread problems. In this case, coordination with federal and non-profit partners was essential to share findings about the lionfish invasion, to exchange knowledge about safe and effective control and removal techniques, and to examine solutions to a problem that crosses park boundaries.

Approximately 29 participants attended the workshop, including natural and cultural resource managers from affected NPS units, Washington, D.C., and regional NPS offices, and selected external partners from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Universities, and NGOs. During the workshop, participants reviewed and discussed technical information on lionfish biology, status of park-level responses, efforts by other south Florida and Caribbean marine resource managers, and current best management practices addressing invasive species.

The majority of the workshop was devoted to establishing service-wide goals, objectives, and strategies for responding to the lionfish threat, and to drafting a more detailed Lionfish Response Plan to provide a framework to assist individual parks to prioritize lionfish management activities and to develop park-specific lionfish management plans. Workshop participants were able to draft a substantial portion of the response plan at the workshop and continued to work on the draft after the workshop ended.

The draft response plan recommends that NPS give a high priority to a robust lionfish management program to protect and maintain park ecological and cultural resources and enjoyable visitor experiences, and that new research priorities should be established and based on collaboration with other federal agencies, partners, and their respective programs.

U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution
Program Manager for the National Park Service Lionfish Response Plan Workshop

Brian Manwaring is a program manager at the U.S. Institute focusing primarily on issues involving water resources. He is responsible for coordinating multistakeholder planning and conflict resolution processes involving river basin management, riparian ecosystem restoration, wetlands, coastal zones, national marine sanctuaries, and fisheries. Brian has 12 years combined facilitation, mediation, decision analysis, and public involvement experience with water, wastewater, sustainability, transportation, and other issues. He has a strong interest in incorporating new technologies and modeling approaches in collaborative decision-making processes.

Prior to joining the U.S. Institute, Brian worked at CH2M HILL, a multinational environmental consulting firm. At CH2M HILL, Brian convened multiple citizen and technical advisory groups, facilitated numerous workshops and public meetings, and helped design decision support systems and evaluation methodologies used in collaborative processes. He was also responsible for planning and implementing civic engagement activities within the context of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) planning process on several projects. Brian's early professional work was largely focused on Organizational Development (OD). In that role, Brian worked with corporations to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of their business operations.

Brian received a M.A. in Conflict Resolution, with a focus on Environmental Studies, from the University of Denver and a B.S. in Decision Support Systems from Virginia Tech.

Brian Manwaring, Program Manager
U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution
(520) 901-8529