[Coral-List] mutton snapper eats lionfish in Roatan

Michael Burton Michael.Burton at noaa.gov
Tue Jan 25 11:30:37 EST 2011

Dear colleagues, i thought i would share my recent observations on this 
vein....i just completed a 3 day cruise to Riley's Hump, in the Tortugas 
South Ecological Reserve, part of the Florida Keys National Marine 
Sanctuary 70 miles west of Key West Florida and about 17-18 miles south 
of Ft. Jefferson National Monument.  During my previous cruise in April 
2010, during 3 days of diving, we observed one lionfish.  I was told by 
colleagues from FWC who were out in May 2010 on a multiday cruise that 
they observed a single lionfish as well.  During my recently completed 
cruise (January 18-19, 2011), we observed multiple lionfish on almost 
every dive (most dives in the range of 100-110 ft depths).  The invasion 
is apparently successfully on!  We collected five via spear for a 
colleague, and killed approximately 45 more and left them on the 
bottom.  I was told by divers that they observed two instances of these 
wounded/debilitated lionfish being consumed, one by a black grouper and 
one by a moray eel.  In both cases it was recounted to me that the 
lionfish had previously been speared, so i cannot report active 
predation on a healthy lionfish by native fauna, wish that I could!  Two 
observations:  I am glad there is some consumption of lionfish being 
observed by native predators, even if it is not outright predation, 
perhaps it will morph into that over time....secondly, the speed at 
which the numbers of lionfish ramped up since our last trip out there is 
disconcerting.  Our wintertime bottom temperatures encountered out there 
on this cruise were 68-69 deg F, well above the lionfish's lower 
survival limit, and based on my experiences with lionfish numbers off 
North Carolina, what we actually see on a dive is most likely a very 
small fraction of what is actually there!

Michael Burton, NMFS Beaufort Lab, Beaufort NC

On 1/21/2011 2:54 PM, Melanie McField wrote:
>   Dear Colleagues,
> Last week I had an amazing dive in Roatan during which a nassau grouper and
> mutton snapper closely followed our fearless lionfish hunter - and the
> mutton snapper actually ended up eating the lionfish (after it was speared
> and offered).  I think this record will increase the number of species that
> are confirmed to consume it.  The video is on Youtube and our new facebook
> site and will soon be on our website (www.healthyreefs.org).  Feel free to
> use the video as needed. The summary information is detailed below the
> links.
> See the video at:
> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P3oGVWvt7E0
> We also have it on on facebook and are starting a new suite of activities on
> facebook... so 'friend' us to keep informed about marine conservation
> throughout the MAR.
> This is the link
> http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=104509826290815&saved#!/video/video.php?v=104509826290815&comments
> Mutton Snapper recorded eating a lionfish
> January 12, 2011 West End Wall, Roatan, Honduras
> Location:  16.26905 N   86.60288 W    Depth: 80 ft
> In the linked video you can see licensed lionfish hunter and Healthy Reefs
> Coordinator in Honduras, Ian Drysdale, feed  a  speared (and dead) lionfish
> to a mutton snapper, as an interested nassau grouper looks on.  The video
> was taken by Melanie McField, Director of the Healthy Reefs Initiate. Still
> photos were taken by Marisol Rueda, Healthy Reefs Coordinator in Mexico.   The
> incident occurred about 15 minutes into the dive. The Nassau grouper  began
> following Ian about 5-10 minutes into the dive and the mutton snapper joined
> along shortly after. Both fish seemed particularly interested in following
> Ian and watching the spear keenly.  Spearfishing is banned in HN and the
> fish show no fear of the spear or the divers in general.  In response to the
> lionfish problem authorities are allowing managers like the Roatan Marine
> Park to license certain trained individuals to use special lionfish spears
> to remove lionfish from the reef inside and outside the Roatan marine park.
>   Both fish were approximately 30-40cm length. Dive guides from Roatan also
> report that the following species have been seen consuming speared lionfish:
> groupers (several species), snappers (including mutton and yellowtail)
> spotted and green morays, and grey reef sharks.  Some plan to attempt to
> train the fish to consume live lionfish, as has been reported from Cayman.

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