I realize Dr Fauci has not weighed in on this but clearly Covid-19 is threatening marine life! Lionfish are native to coral reefs in the South Pacific and Indian Oceans. There they have natural predators such as sharks, cornetfish, grouper, large eels, frogfish and other scorpion fish. In the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, the only predators are divers! We hope that in time, sharks and groupers in this area will start to hunt them to restore the ecological balance.
Lionfish are an invasive species that were most likely introduced from aquarium releases, aquariums damaged by hurricanes for example. They are voracious eaters and reproduce very rapidly. Not only are they destroying fish populations, they are also having a major impact on the barrier reef. They eat herbivores which eat algae on the coral reef. Fewer herbivores mean algae growth is not kept under control. Reefs are already being affected by climate change and pollution. We need to do what we can to help Mother Nature. One thing we can do is do lionfish hunts. Not only is this a moral thing to do, lionfish are delicious!
We hope that groupers and sharks in our waters will eventually start hunting lionfish. Here is an example where the spear wounded but did not kill the lionfish. A Nassau grouper came in to finish the job. Sharks often follow divers now hoping that the divers will kill a lionfish or two for them. We are also experiencing lots of examples where the sharks show divers where the lionfish are hiding!
On our lionfish hunts, we do not feed the lionfish to the sharks as we believe this practice is changing fish behavior. We bring them back so our guests can take them to their hotel for dinner.
We do not allow our dive masters to hunt lionfish except when pre-assigned to lead a lionfish hunt. If the dive master is hunting lionfish – who is watching the divers? Safety is a real priority in our practices and not just a slogan. In addition, some guests come to see the beautiful underwater life in these waters and are offended by seeing lionfish being speared, which is another reason for keeping sight-seeing divers separate from lionfish hunters.
Our policy is that guests who want to do a lionfish hunt must sign up ahead of time so that we can arrange the necessary safety measures and we require a minimum of 2 lionfish hunters. First, we conduct a short training session for the guests at our dive center before the lionfish hunters even leave the dock. We boil water and carry several thermoses of boiling hot water as that is needed for treating any lionfish stings, in addition to carrying a first aid kit. While doing the lion fish hunt, our dive master carries the container to collect the lion fish (we do not feed them to sharks and eels and other fish under water as that affects fish behavior) and our dive master puts the speared lionfish in the container rather than have the guest do it to reduce the chances of injury.
On your next dive trip, please book a lionfish hunt, or better yet, several lionfish hunts. Marine life, here and elsewhere in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico need your help and need it as soon as possible! Covid-19 is threatening marine life.
While we don’t promise to protect lion fish from covid-19, we will do our very best to protect you with our covid-19 policies http://www.splashbelize.com/covid-19-policies/
Photos compliments of Marlen Loewen, photographer and lion fish hunter extraordinaire!