Eight-five degrees topside.
Seventy four degrees below the surface.
I hang in the water at fifty-five feet and watch a Lionfish become ensnared in the teeth of a Moray Eel, whose length is approximately five foot.
These numbers add up to be an interesting battle between two predators and something the experts claim should never be – Eels fighting Lionfish, in the Caribbean Sea.
The Lionfish Problem
For years, the non-native Lionfish population has grown to unmanageable numbers (according to our local aquarium) in the Caribbean Sea and now, into the Atlantic Ocean. To dive with these creatures outside of the eastern oceans seems like a treat – beautiful, stunning fish with brightly colored stripes and a beautiful show of fins and fans. Small to large, these fish are striking creatures, swimming against the backdrop of the coral reef. It’s hard to believe these striking beauties could harm the oceans in which they do not belong. It’s even harder to know that overpopulation can do more harm to other native fish as well as the coral reefs, if not in check.
Some islanders have adopted the strategy of killing this invasive species and feeding it to other predators such as Moray Eels, Groupers, Sharks and other predatory fish. The belief is that these animals will eventually desire the Lionfish and start consuming them naturally. Others have taken it upon themselves to eradicate the Lionfish by hunting them en-masse, encouraging tourists to participate in Lionfish hunting using spears and storage containers. The fish are then brought to the surface and properly prepared for a fish fry.
Tourist destinations with large Lionfish populations have discovered that over time, feeding the hunted fish allows local predators to then associate people with their food source. The Bahamas, Cayman Islands and others have found that Moray Eels, Nurse Sharks and larger predatory fish are now hassling scuba divers in search for their next meal. The animals have become less dependent on hunting and more on being spoon-fed (or rather, spear-fed) instead. Tourists are now encountering these predatory fish more frequently as their safety becomes more and more in jeopardy.
What You Can Do
While hunting fish with spears may sound like a fun thing to do on your next vacation, consider educating yourself properly on Lionfish eradication ahead of time. Tourist destinations utilizing Lionfish containment units seem to be ahead of the curve when it comes to your safety, but beware that tubes are associated with people, which are associated with meals. Research your next dive trip if you plan on hunting, and find a reputable dive shop to protect your appendages, your gear and your buddy.
And of course, don’t try this at home.