Can Grouper Eat Lionfish

James Smith
• Monday, 21 December, 2020
• 7 min read

With a little help from a big friend you will see in the video below a Nassau grouper eating a small healthy lionfish. The video was taken recently by a guest from Little Cayman Reef Divers.

fish grouper eating lion
(Source: www.youtube.com)


On Little Cayman where they do have some very diver friendly Nassau groupers I believe it is a little more than a tiny step for their little island. The lionfish will turns its head away from a potential predator and splay out all its 18 venomous spines.

If it is grabbed or ends up inside a predators mouth those spines can do a lot of damage and they pack a venomous punch. I used to live in Bristol, England but after a change in direction we moved overseas to work in the scuba diving industry.

I’m a dive instructor, working for Tortuga Divers, part of the Red Sail group. Marine scientists, conservationists and food safety experts echo a resounding “yes.” Eating lionfish is a great idea, they say.

Their natural domain is in the South Pacific and Indian Oceans, where they are a normal and healthy part of reef ecosystems. They’ve expanded quickly since, bulldozing native fish populations in the Caribbean and up the Eastern Seaboard.

But native species, including small reef fish like baby snapper and grouper, don’t recognize them as voracious predators. In the Bahamas, prey fish biomass fell by 65 to 95 percent after the invasion says Stephanie Green, a marine scientist at Stanford’s Center for Ocean Solutions.

grouper lionfish eats
(Source: www.youtube.com)

Since lionfish are also prolific breeders, and range from shallow mangroves to non-reef habitats more than 1,000 feet deep, they’re very hard to wipe out once established, Green says. With nets and spears, divers and scientists are taking to the water to turn the hunters into the hunted.

Besides the winnings, “the best incentive for collecting lionfish is eating them,” explains marine biologist Mark Nixon of the University of Hawaii at Manor. Most notable are the long needle-sharp spines that rise from their backs and sides like tournament flags.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration added them to its list of ciguatera-associated species, which also includes other big reef predators like grouper, snapper and barracuda. Tests of their raw meat may give false positives, Nixon found in a 2015 study.

The conditions that give rise to ciguatera also tend to be localized, so knowing where a fish was caught is a good first step. “ Lionfish are tasty and safe to eat from most places,” explains Alison Robertson, a toxin researcher at the University of South Alabama, who lead the FDA’s investigation of ciguatera in lionfish.

A burgeoning commercial fishery would mean more people hunting this species, she says: one of the most promising options for lionfish control. Stay tuned for our next post: a rocking’ recipe for lionfish ceviche from a famous Belizean chef.

grouper goliath lionfish eating
(Source: www.youtube.com)

Groupers may be able to limit the invasion of lionfish on the Caribbean coral reefs, according to new research conducted by The University of Queensland (Up). The discovery by an international research team, led by Up's School of Biological Science's, Professor Peter Mummy, could help save native fish populations in the Caribbean, which are being decimated by the pretty but ravenous aquarium favorite.

Lionfish are not found naturally in the Caribbean and it is believed they many have been released from aquariums in the United States and eventually made their way to the Bahamas in 2004. Professor Mummy said Lionfish numbers have increased dramatically in the past few years, and they have now invaded the entire Caribbean.

The team surveyed reefs inside and outside the Extra Cays Land and Sea Park, which are some of the most diverse marine reserves in the Caribbean, having been established in 1959. The lionfish (Steroid Holsteins) are naturally found in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, but have invaded the Atlantic.

The invasion of this frilly striped tropical beauties, which originally hail from the Indo-Pacific, began circa 1985. It was that year that, according to the leading theory, someone released a dozen or so lionfish from a home aquarium into south Florida waters.

Ruthless predators with a voracious appetite, invasive lionfish are known to gobble up to nine-tenths of the small and juvenile fish within a coral reef, throwing whole ecosystems out of whack. A big part of this controversy swivels on the worry that munching on lionfish could be dangerous to the predators themselves.

lionfish grouper tail fuzzy dwarf eat
(Source: www.youtube.com)

While a 2011 study of a chain of Bahamian reefs and marine reserves found a sevenfold decline in lionfish numbers in areas where groupers abound, more recent studies have failed to produce the same results. Scientists’ best guess is that parasites keep their numbers in check, as well as a huge population of tropical sea creatures that like to lionfish eggs and larva.

Without any fish to eat them, colonies of future baby lionfish keep riding the current further up into the Gulf of Mexico and down the coast of Latin America toward Brazil. It’s a venomous predatory fish that’s usually found in the warm waters of the Indian and Pacific oceans.

These pointy bristles poke the skin and inject venom that can cause pain, swelling, and bleeding. Because these beautiful fish are so dangerous, you might be surprised to learn that some animals can actually eat the lionfish.

Most of the lionfish ’s predators can avoid being hurt by its venom in all sorts of unique ways. Some researchers have found that sharks are either immune to lionfish venom or aren’t affected that badly by it.

Scientists hope that by encouraging sharks in the Atlantic Ocean to lionfish, these large predators will naturally begin to hunt lionfish themselves. By eating the lionfish, they help control its population and make it harder for the venomous fish to multiply.

grouper lionfish invasive open water vs caribbean relationship gobbled documented kill between ashley native recorded observation species peerj gustafson examining
(Source: reefnation.com)

Cornet fish usually hunt for prey closer to the ocean floor, where many lionfish tend to swim as well. Groupers caneatlionfish by waiting for the right moment to attack so that the venomous spines don’t poke them.

Scientists are trying to get groupers in the Atlantic Ocean to start attacking more lionfish to control their population. There have been some successful studies showing that groupers in the Caribbean waters can become a natural predator of the lionfish.

One team of researchers also found that areas in the ocean with a lot of groupers have much smaller populations of lionfish. However, the number of groupers in the ocean is getting smaller because it’s a popular fish for humans to eat.

Scientists hope that groupers won’t be overfished in the next few years, so they can focus on controlling the lionfish population. Large eels are another predator of lionfish the Atlantic Ocean that scientists are training starting eating lionfish.

However, because the lionfish is covered in so many venomous spikes, it can be hard for the eels to properly attack and eat them without getting hurt. For now, it’s unsure whether large eels in the Atlantic Ocean will be able to help reduce the lionfish population overtime.

grouper fish goliath lion eating
(Source: www.youtube.com)

Once they’ve gotten close enough to their prey, frog fish attack extremely fast to give the smaller fish no chance of escape. Because the lionfish doesn’t see the camouflaged frog fish, it’s caught off guard and can ’t use its venomous spines to defend itself.

Like lionfish, scorpion fish also live in the Indo-Pacific Ocean and have venomous spines that protect them from predators. Though lionfish are beautiful and interesting creatures, their growing population in the Atlantic Ocean is a big concern for the preservation of other fish species.

The lionfish multiply and consume protected fish species because they have no predators in the Atlantic Ocean to stop them. From our FAQ page, “Natural predators in the Indo-Pacific and Red Sea that are known to lionfish include sharks, cornet fish, grouper, large eels, frog fish and other scorpion fish.

There is speculation that large snapper and some species of trigger fish lionfish in their native ranges as well.” But these are all examples of opportunistic feeding with human interaction and not true natural predation of lionfish.

Recently Roman Muñoz, a research fishery biologist for NOAA, published a paper documenting the discovery of a spotted Moray eel that was brought up far offshore of Jacksonville, FL that coughed up a lionfish when it landed on deck. This is the first verified example of natural predation of the invasive lionfish in the Atlantic Ocean because the Moray was found in an area where divers would not have been hunting.

pet grouper lionfish
(Source: www.youtube.com)

Great question, I’ve seen grown men cry from a lionfish sting so it’s no joke, how can other fish eat them without suffering? The best answer we’ve heard is that because fish are cold-blooded the venom does not have as much effect as it does on a warm-blooded animal.

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