[Coral-List] Teaching Mega-Fauna to eat Invasive P. Volitans

Sarah Frias-Torres sfrias_torres at hotmail.com
Thu Mar 10 11:11:14 EST 2016

your efforts are well intentioned (fighting the invasive lionfish in the Caribbean), but you need to focus your enthusiasm with the lens of knowledge,
otherwise you might cause more harm than good.

As a rule of thumb, you don't want wildlife to associate people with food. Therefore, feeding wildlife is never recommended. The wildlife is always
at the losing end. There's a solid body of literature on animal behavior and behavioral ecology focused on this issue, mostly for terrestrial wildlife.. 
Studies are ongoing for marine wildlife, but the conclusions follow what has been found for bears, wolves, lions, elephants, etc.

There are others in this forum who can comment on shark behavior, as per the video you share. What I can tell you about grouper fish behavior for example, is that in dive sites where people hand feed them, the groupers acquire a typical begging and following behavior every time they see a diver. Groupers have been fed from hot-dogs to pop-corn, and you can imagine the negative effect for the fitness of the fish. Hand-fed groupers will also get the catch at the end of a spear, whether or not it was offered by the diver. This is not a good outcome in the end and results in conflict between groupers and divers (and the groupers pay a high price with their life). I can imagine the same will develop between divers and sharks if the practice you show in your video gets extended. Alas, sharks might have a much discerning power of deduction that I'm not aware of, perhaps they can tell your true intentions from just looking at your eyes, and know instantly whether what you offer at the end of the spear is for them, or is your take-home piece. Shark behavior specialists can chime in here.  Otherwise, I see more diver-shark conflicts here than solutions.

A comprehensive study about natural Caribbean predators eating invasive lionfish was published not long ago.
Mumby PJ, Harborne AR, Brumbaugh DR (2011) Grouper as a Natural Biocontrol of Invasive Lionfish. 
PLoS ONE 6(6): e21510. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0021510

The most logical sustainable and long-term action would be to rebuild grouper stocks in the Atlantic and Caribbean, so the groupers can eat the invasive lionfish. Unfortunately, groupers are chronically overfished. Like many problems of today, the solution relies on changing people's behavior (stop overfishing groupers) to fix a huge problem (invasive lionfish).

I urge you to learn more about animal behavior, in particular, predatory behavior, before attempting to "educate" black tip sharks to eat lionfish from the end of a spear. There are many books to recommend, but as an introduction to the topic, I would suggest starting with the classics (Konrad Lorenz, Niko Tinbergen) and then move into immersive animal behavior studies (Jane Goodall and Diane Fossey for starters), then move onto some marine predators (Listening to whales, from Alexandra Morton), add some books from Carl Safina. Finally, to get an overall view of human-wildlife interactions, Farley Mowat's Never Cry Wolf.

Remember that you will learn more by observing the natural behavior of wild animals  in their own environment, on their terms. Wild animals can teach you more than you can ever teach them.

Sarah Frias-Torres, PhD
Twitter: @GrouperDoc
Blog: http://grouperluna.wordpress.com
From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov <coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml..noaa.gov> on behalf of Damien Beri <beridl at g.cofc.edu>
Sent: Wednesday, March 9, 2016 1:58 PM
To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
Subject: [Coral-List] Teaching Mega-Fauna to eat Invasive P. Volitans

Hello my esteemed coral enthusiasts,

Here's a topic for debate,

Ecotourism or Eco-Solution?

As we all know the Lionfish invasion of the Caribbean has severely altered the feeding structure of the present reefs.

While some may could find it controversial to work hands on with animals of these communities to try and develops their taste for this insidious white meat, I would like to know your thoughts.

Here is a video where I am directly feeding live Lion Fish to some pretty massive Black Tips;


Please let me know your thoughts on the PROs Vs. CONs of this mitigation method.

Let's make helping the reefs exhilarating!

Warm Regards,

Damien Beri

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