Conservation Initiatives

Alien Invasion: Lionfish

Lionfish. These red and white striped beauties are dazzling with their bright colours and “lion’s mane”.

But while their appearance may lure you in, make sure you don’t come too close! These fish have 18 long, venomous spines that are used for defence against predators. In fact, they have been known to cause extreme pain for humans, leading to headaches, vomiting and paralysis. Ouch!

Lionfish originate from the Indo-Pacific Ocean, where their predators include many species of large fish and sharks. In the 1980’s, this popular aquarium fish was introduced to the Western Atlantic and Caribbean, where they have quickly become an extremely destructive invasive species.

With no natural predators in these parts of the world, their population has rapidly expanded, destroying marine sanctuaries as it grows. As an invasive species, prey do not recognize lionfish as predators, making it easy for these predators to consume any fish or invertebrate in their path. They easily feast on many vital members of the food chain, causing entire underwater ecosystems to collapse!

And if you think one lionfish sounds dangerous, a single female can lay 50,000 eggs, every 3 days, for up to 30 years!

So what is Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada doing to combat this alien invasion?

For the last few years, the Aquarium has volunteered in the Lionfish Invitational at the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary located in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Texas. The Invitational sends dive teams down into the marine sanctuary to remove as many invasive lionfish as possible using a spear fishing technique. While spear fishing is regularly illegal in the sanctuary, special permits are issued for the research team to capture lionfish.

The lionfish caught are tallied, measured, bagged and tagged with labels noting location and time before heading to the lab. The results are then analyzed to determine gut contents, genetics and age.

The work completed at the Lionfish Invitational helps to combat this incredibly successful invasive species while furthering a scientific understanding of the effects on native fish communities and habitats.

Have a question about the Aquarium, or something you would like to see on Deep Sea Diary? Comment below for the chance for your question to be featured in our monthly Q&A post!

2016 Shoreline Cleanup

shoreline cleanup 2016

On June 5, 2016, our Blue Team headed out once again to the Toronto Humber Marshes. This is part of Toronto’s largest watershed and is home to many different species of wildlife. It was also recognized in 1999 as a Canadian Heritage River.

Despite the weather, we had a great turnout and we managed to gather up 32 kilograms in garbage, and 9 full bags of recyclable materials. This was also accompanied by over 900 cigarette butts!

Clean Toronto Together

Toronto’s Annual “Clean Toronto Together” Spring Clean-Up

To celebrate Earth Day 2016, our Blue Team cleaned the streets of Toronto for a 20 minute makeover. Bremner Blvd has never looked so clean.

Way to go team!

The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup

the great canadian shoreline cleanup

The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup

Our Blue Team celebrated World Oceans Day by helping clean the Humber Marshes, one of the few remaining river mouth marshes in Toronto! As part of Toronto’s largest watershed, the extensive Humber Marshes provide an important breeding habitat for ducks, turtles and fish, and are a significant corridor for migratory song birds and monarch butterflies.

We collected over 100 pounds of waste in just two hours! Go team!

2014 Tour de Turtles

shelley the turtle

Sponsored by the Ripley’s Aquariums in Toronto, Gatlinburg, and Myrtle Beach, Shelley the loggerhead sea turtle participated in the Tour de Turtles to help raise awareness about the threat of commercial longline fisheries. Released with a satellite transmitter on July 27, 2014 after nesting in the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, Shelley swam a total of 893 km!

Show your support for the Sea Turtle Conservancy, the world’s oldest sea turtle research and conservation group.

World Oceans Day 2014

Our Blue Team celebrated World Oceans Day (June 8, 2014) by participating in the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup. Together we collected a total of 7 bags of landfill waste (a total of 32 pounds) and 6 bags of recyclable material! To nobody’s surprise, cigarette butts were the number one item collected by our team… 2,832 to be exact! These butts have been sent to TerraCycle, where they will be recycled into a variety of industrial products, such as plastic pallets, and any remaining tobacco will be re-worked into tobacco composting. Coming in second and third, we had food wrappers and paper cups.

By tackling the issue of shoreline litter, our Blue Team made a positive impact on our ecosystems, wildlife and community as a whole.

Region Conservation Authority

On May 7th, members of our Blue Team joined up with the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) at Tommy Thompson Park.

Located on the City of Toronto shoreline, the park is continuously growing into a lush landscape that provides an important habitat for birds and other wildlife. To improve growing conditions of the park, our Blue Team planted white pine trees on the property.