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Background

The Eastern Mediterranean Sea is a hotspot of marine alien invasive species. Most are Indo-Pacific species entering through the Suez Canal. One recent invader, the lionfish Pterois miles, can severely impact the ecosystem as it predates on small native fish and invertebrate species resulting in trophic cascades with ecological and socio-economic implications. In the Western Atlantic, the lionfish has been recognised as one of the most ecologically and economically harmful marine bioinvasions to date.

Evidence from the coasts of Cyprus and from other coastal areas of the Eastern Mediterranean, indicates that another lionfish invasion is underway. The lionfish are becoming alarmingly abundant around Cyprus, which seems to be the first EU state affected by Lessepsian migrants. Lionfish concentrate at the eastern, warm side of the island within or near two Natura 2000 network sites. Lionfish sightings displayed an exponential growth since 2013 when a few lionfish were sighted. Indicative of this growth in the population is the fact that only a few years later, in November 2017, RELIONMED team collected 74 individuals in a single removal expedition at a Marine Protected Area with a surface area less than a hectare!