Another reason to protect sharks

The lionfish, native to the Indo-Pacific, have infiltrated their way into the Caribbean. Due to their population explosion and aggressive behavior, lionfish have the potential to become the most disastrous marine invasion in history by drastically reducing the abundance of coral reef fishes and leaving behind a devastated ecosystem.

In many parts of the Caribbean, divers are encouraged to spear the fish and “Lionfish Rodeos” are becoming a popular control method in resort areas. Spearing lionfish may be helpful in keeping the populations of lionfish down on some Caribbean reefs, but with sightings of the fish down as deep as 300 meters, it is implausible to think we can easily eradicate them. Lionfish in the Caribbean are a serious threat to the decline of biodiversity and abundance of reef fish…

Furthermore the lionfish do not have any natural predators in the Caribbean. BUT sharks in some places like the Roatan Marine Park and Grand Bahamas Island are being taught to eat lionfish. Their solution, teach local sharks and the occasional passer-by to associate the non-native and ever growing population of lionfish as a food source. The divers are feeding dead fish to the sharks, and some divers have seen sharks hunting the fish. Maybe the native predators can slowly learning to eat lionfish! and we can help to speed up the process.

It would be interesting to study this learning process of the sharks. Individuals will copy the behavior of hunting just seeing other sharks eating these fish? Let’s hope that at some point the sharks do develop a taste for lionfish and decide to hunt them in the wild.

Travis feeding a Caribbean Reef Shark with a lion fish – Photo by Johnny Gaskell