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The Lionfish Epidemic in the Caribbean


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15 replies to this topic

#1 georoc01

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Posted 01 June 2010 - 07:06 PM

While I was diving in Roatan, one of the things that was obvious was that the biggest threat to their reef system currently is lionfish. They are devouring all of the juvenile fish on the reef so an eradication program was started within the Marine Park. All of the divemasters I dove with carried spear guns and will shoot them on sight. Not all dive shops have agreed with this approach and some like Anthonys Key are not participating and the reef on their end of the park has far more lionfish than the other sites we dove closer to the west end.

What is interesting is how they have moved further deep. Since I was taking a tec class, we were diving down to 165 feet. At that depth we found lionfish condos with dozens of lionfish. My DM shot as many as he could before we had to leave the depth. When we headed north to dive the Odyssey, we killed about 6 on that dive.

And this is in a marine park where daily killing of lionfish is going on. What's really bad is when you leave the marine park they are simply taking over. WW mentioned them in her last Nekton trip. When we saw them on the last trip to North Carolina they looked to be the size of basketball.

Anyone else seen this? And the question is..can we do anything about this invasive species? Or will they simply eat our Caribbean fish until we have nothing but them left?

#2 Jerrymxz

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Posted 01 June 2010 - 07:19 PM

Last year I saw dozens of them here on the wrecks in NC they were eveywhere. This past weekend I did 6 dives on 4 wrecks and I don't remember seeing a single one. someone or something is taking them out. They are a beautiful fish but they don't belong here and it's mans fault. it's up to man to figure out how to fix it. I'm all for the kill on sight plan.

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#3 JimG

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Posted 01 June 2010 - 07:32 PM

I saw three this past weekend in Boynton Beach - did not have any safe means to kill them, otherwise I probably would have.

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Posted 01 June 2010 - 07:52 PM

The groupers are starting to eat the dead ones and eventually they will turn on the live ones as well. Nature will find a way to balance itself out eventually. They are here for good for predators are starting to come on the scene to limit them. It will take a while so kill all you can.

#5 shadragon

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Posted 01 June 2010 - 07:58 PM

The groupers are starting to eat the dead ones and eventually they will turn on the live ones as well. Nature will find a way to balance itself out eventually. They are here for good for predators are starting to come on the scene to limit them. It will take a while so kill all you can.

True, except man has killed most of the groupers. Someone with a spear gun will never reduce the threat in any meaningful way. Only nature can do that.
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#6 ScubaTex

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Posted 01 June 2010 - 09:26 PM

Kill'em all, Let God sort'em out
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#7 Parrotman

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Posted 01 June 2010 - 09:48 PM

I was on Utila last month and we did see them on almost every dive. The dive master carried a spear gun and killed them when he could. We did not see them in the abundance like on Roatan. Interestingly they were most often found at about 90ft. I actually saw more of them on Utila than I did in PNG last fall. But then again there are predators in PNG. I do not know if I agree that a spear gun won't control them. Look what a spear gun has done to the giant sea bass and the goliath groupers... However, it sure can not hurt to hunt them and help nature take it's course. Of course I suppose in the long run if they kill all the food, they will dissapear from lack of the same food.
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#8 peterbj7

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Posted 02 June 2010 - 10:48 AM

The groupers are starting to eat the dead ones and eventually they will turn on the live ones as well. Nature will find a way to balance itself out eventually. They are here for good for predators are starting to come on the scene to limit them. It will take a while so kill all you can.

True, except man has killed most of the groupers. Someone with a spear gun will never reduce the threat in any meaningful way. Only nature can do that.


You're right, and that applies here in Belize as well. Luckily we don't seem to be as infested with them as Roatan apparently is, but they're here. I always thought they breed or congregate in water below recreational diving depths, so what our DMs here do is pointless. We'll kill a few for sure, but overall numbers will continue to increase. It does seem that groupers are our only line of defence, and here as well most of those have been eaten. It's always struck me as a dirty trick anyway, as groupers are such friendly fish and like to accompany divers.

#9 Jerrymxz

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Posted 02 June 2010 - 11:36 AM

Give every red neck in America a speargun and tell them:

1. The season opens Today
2. There is no bag limit
3. They taste like chicken
4. They are responsible for Dale Earnhardt's death

PROBLEM SOLVED :thankyou:

Each wreck has a tale to tell about its life and its demise. 

If you are observant while diving in dark places listen to the account each has to tell, You cannot come away unaffected.   
Changes in Latitude, Changes in Attitude


#10 shadragon

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Posted 02 June 2010 - 12:23 PM

Thanks Jerry. Needed that.

I wonder what is necessary to make a Grouper fish farm and re-populate them? They are an edible fish after all so there has to be money in it. If that plan is impractical for hunting Lion Fish then how about sharks with frickin' laser beams attached to their heads. :thankyou:
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#11 georoc01

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Posted 02 June 2010 - 12:34 PM

We brought back and cooked up one of the larger ones we caught and with a little butter & garlic was tasty. The challenge is bagging them without getting stung.

#12 Capn Jack

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Posted 02 June 2010 - 03:30 PM

We brought back and cooked up one of the larger ones we caught and with a little butter & garlic was tasty. The challenge is bagging them without getting stung.

Pretty good as sushi.

Yet another reason to carry a BIG knife - in addition to compensatory psycho-physiological reasons.
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#13 JimG

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Posted 02 June 2010 - 03:53 PM

Anybody seen or tried a Safe Spear yet?

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#14 shadragon

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Posted 02 June 2010 - 04:42 PM

Anybody seen or tried a Safe Spear yet?

Not yet. Pretty light on detail on that website.

By law in Bermuda, you need a Lion Fish culling license and the only spear tip you can use to nab Lion Fish are "Paralyser" type.

The two on the left are what we use.

Posted Image
Remember, email is an inefficient communications forum. You may not read things the way it was intended. Give people the benefit of the doubt before firing back... Especially if it is ME...! ;)

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#15 georoc01

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Posted 02 June 2010 - 06:14 PM

Anybody seen or tried a Safe Spear yet?

Not yet. Pretty light on detail on that website.

By law in Bermuda, you need a Lion Fish culling license and the only spear tip you can use to nab Lion Fish are "Paralyser" type.

The two on the left are what we use.

Posted Image


Those are the type being used in Roatan too. We then used a long knife with gloves to peel them off the spear. Sometimes despite the spearing and corresponding knife wound they will still swim away. If they actually survived the ordeal, they earned their life back.

They are beautiful creatures though. A couple of them we thought should be brought to a taxidermist. I thought it might not be a bad business to stuff them and sell them down on the cruise ship dock.




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