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.
Lionfish are considered an invasive species, introduced to the southeastern Atlantic Ocean by the U.S. Aquarium trade in the 1980s, NOAA reports. Coastal water managers and NOAA are working together to study lionfish, hoping to eventually control them and keep them away from conservation areas.
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.
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 eat 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. Sometime in the 1990s, two different species of lionfish made it into the waters of the Atlantic off Florida.
Lacking local predators to stop its spreading, the lionfish have been described as one of the most aggressively invasive species on the planet “. The following video is uninterrupted, continuous coverage of an encounter between a Nassau Grouper and a lionfish with no interference, other than that of a diver being present with a camera, and, may be the first photo documentation of a grouper making an open water kill of an invasive lionfish without encouragement of any kind by a diver.
Please advise at LionfishUniversity@gmail.com of any recorded or observed similar interactions between grouper /sharks/snapper/eels and lionfish, and where they occurred. 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 research team from the University of Queensland (Australia) and American Museum of Natural History (New York) studied the invasion of lionfish in a remote stretch of coral reef in the Bahamas.
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.
Diving in the early morning light, Young spotted a group of lionfish on the coral head. Careful not to damage the reef, Young started spearing, tucking his catch into a PVC container at his side.
The lionfish problem started more than 25 years ago, when the first fish were released into the waters of South Florida, most likely by the aquarium trade. Lionfish can grow as large as 18.5 inches in length and have venomous spines that prevent other marine species from eating them.
“They’re changing the composition of our reef fish communities,” says Stephanie Green, a marine biologist at the University of Alberta who has been studying the effects of invasive lionfish for almost a decade. Lionfish also eat other species that are ecologically important as cleaners that remove parasites from other fish.
Despite the negative effects of lionfish, the purpose of derbies isn’t to wipe out the invasive populations. “We’re not going to eradicate lionfish, but we certainly can keep their populations in check so that we can manage their effects on the system,” she says.
Altogether, this year’s derby harvested 1,192 lionfish from the waters surrounding Key Largo. As a mild but meaty white fish, lionfish tastes similar to cod and lends itself to a variety of preparations.
The fish that wasn’t prepared in the derby’s official culinary competition was donated to Whole Foods. “The sustainability piece with lionfish is that there are too many of them in the water,” says David Ventura, Whole Foods Market’s Florida seafood coordinator.
Even though divers still encounter lionfish in abundance in more remote reef areas, Green says the derbies are working. In those days, the goal of derbies was to raise awareness about invasive lionfish rather than to control their populations.
Green cautions that derbies aren’t a silver bullet, however: their effectiveness depends on a number of factors, including how many people participate and the severity of the invasion in any given area. Even though lionfish populations will bounce back over time, derbies have the potential to reduce their impact on native species.
FGC Marine Scientist Mike Parsons said the growing lionfish population is threatening to crowd out the native species so many Southwest Floridians love to catch and eat. “They're competing with other fish for places to live and food to eat,” Parsons said.
“I think the other big factor is they re-produce so often, and they produce so many eggs,” Parsons said “Their population can just explode.” “Somewhere on the order of 2 million eggs per female every time they spawn,” says Parsons.
Charter boat captain Billy D'Anthony said huge numbers of lionfish are being hauled in from the northern Gulf off the panhandle of Florida. Some say the biggest hope for getting the lionfish population under control is human consumption.
D'Anthony is hoping to generate more interest in hunting lionfish by posting videos of his spearfishing adventures on his website. As researchers look for ways to get the lionfish population under control, they're calling on you to do your part.
When Scripts station WF TX in Fort Myers asked Parsons what people should do if they see a lionfish, he responds is simple but direct. D'Anthony recommended killing lionfish carefully, though, because their spines are venomous.