[Coral-List] Mutton snapper eating lionfish in Roatan

Roatan Marine Park info at roatanmarinepark.net
Mon Jan 24 12:13:52 EST 2011

For over a year, divers around Roatan have been noting mutton snapper, moray
eels, various species of grouper and trigger fish, and even Caribbean reef
sharks eating both dead and wounded lionfish. On many dives, mutton snapper
literally follow divers waiting for a meal. While the spines are toxic and
people are concerned whether fish consuming the lionfish will later die, it
appears that this is not the fact. With over 50 divers issued with spears by
the RMP diving three times a day, literally hundreds of lionfish are being
killed daily within the Reserve. Island wide this number is even greater. If
the snappers are dyeing from consuming the lionfish, I feel that the huge
number of dive boats and the marine park's patrol boats which operate within
the Reserve would have found at least one dead fish floating at the surface.
This is not the fact, however, divers have noticed pit marks resembling
spine wounds around the mouths of several snappers. Divers also recognize
the same snappers and other species at certain diver sites and have noted
that they are still all alive and well. 

While it is bad for fish to associate divers with a source of food, is it
not better to try and encourage these fish to eat the lionfish so in the
years to come, these species will recognize lionfish as prey rather than as
a predator? Future generations of fish will begin to eat the lionfish,
whether they are speared or alive and well. When dead, fish will not
hesitate to devour the lionfish whole, however if a wounded lionfish is
taken away from the safety of the reef, they too are swallowed hole or
ripper to pieces by snappers etc.. Every time we kill a lionfish, not only
are we saving all the fish that that specimen would eat throughout its
lifetime, we are also preventing it from reproducing further, and also
saving one fish which replaces the meal that that one lionfish became. 

The program we are currently working on in Roatan is to introduce lionfish
to restaurant menus and promote it as a sustainable source of seafood. A
great alternative to snapper and grouper, it is now financially viable for
people to make a living out of catching the lionfish here on Roatan. The aim
is to raise awareness throughout the communities by educating both locals
and tourists and develop a market for the meat. 

On February 12th and 13th, the RMP will be holding the first official
Lionfish Derby and cook off. The aim will be to involve people from all
around the island and massacre as many lionfish as possible. We are hoping
to break the 2,000 mark as on a single dive, it is possible for a diver to
spear between 20 and 30 lionfish. For more details about the Roatan Marine
Park, our lionfish program and the derby, please visit our website at

Director of patrols and infrastructure 
Roatan Marine Park
Honduras, Central America
Nic.bach at roatanmarinepark.net

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