Nature Takes its Course

Discussion in 'Marine Life and Ecosystems' started by offthewall1, Mar 10, 2012.

  1. offthewall1

    offthewall1 Scuba Instructor

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    Something I learned on my most recent trip to the Bahamas is something I suspected all along. The fish of the Atlantic Reef systems adapt amazingly quick.

    I witnessed a large Queen Triggerfish chasing and eating a live juvenile Lionfish. So much for all the worry about Lionfish having no natural predators and this insidious hunt to exterminate them. We already knew that sharks would eat them as would large Groupers... but who knew Triggerfish were eating them before they could grow?

    I suspect this is a fairly recent adaptation for the voracious Triggerfish. I had not heard of this before... but after seeing it with my own eyes, I have no doubt that Lionfish have natural predators among Atlantic Reef Fish.

    Nature, especially in the sea, adapts itself to meet its needs. Perhaps for a short time, Lionfish were running amuck in the Atlantic, but I suspect it is in the process of finding it's place and it's numbers will adjust and adapt into the ecosystem as has happened with all other fish throughout time. In my opinion, humans need to stay out of the equation.

    I say if you like to eat Lionfish (and they are good eating,) hunt them like you would any other fish.. but don't malisciously go around killing them thinking you're helping out the ecosystem. You just might be taking a meal from a friendly Trigger or Grouper or Shark... or some other species we just don't know eats them yet.

    Peace.
     
  2. offthewall1

    offthewall1 Scuba Instructor

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    Here is a photo my wife took of the Trigger with the Lionfish in it's mouth just before it finished it off... not a great pic... but you can see it... Riding Rock Michelle 1 076.jpg
     
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  3. ajtoady

    ajtoady ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

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    It's amazing how fish adapt. In the St Lawrence and Great Lakes the introduction of the goby was a definite negative impact. However a few years later the predators, bass, pike, walleyes, muskies, perch, etc. realized hey we can eat them and from my observations are starting to reduce their numbers. I just hope that the Asian carp never make it to the Great Lakes. Seems we have some either very stupid or uninformed people controlling the Mississippi and Ohio River basin. However the people controlling the St Law. Seaway are not toobright either. Ships from overseas need to be sterilized or cleaned before entering our waters.:coffee:

    This is however my opinion and if it offends, Tough, get over it!
     
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  4. DandyDon

    DandyDon ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

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    That's the first report I have noticed of any native fishes attacking a live lion. :thumb: Hope it catches on.

    I don't think hunters killing the big ones is going disrupt their learning process. There'll still be plenty around for them to graze on.
     
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  5. drrich2

    drrich2 Great White

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    The logic of that doesn't work well.

    First off, divers culling large numbers of lionfish on reefs accessible for recreational divers provide dead lionfish for potential predators to 'sample,' reduce lionfish numbers on those sites giving prey species more time to adapt to the lionfish threat, and the idea that if we kill lionfish we might prevent predators from being able to find one (otherwise how would we be costing them a meal?)... (Wow, we should be so lucky!!!). If that's a concern, just leave the ones you kill lying around. The predators won't mind the assist.

    I don't see where you've made any case against deliberate culling by divers ('maliciously' or not), especially based on one anecdotal account of a triggerfish eating a small one.

    Richard.
     
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  6. deeper thoughts

    deeper thoughts Orca

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    Everything adapts! That being said, here on the reefs(SPA) in the Keys the divers have done a good job of reducing the lionfish. That being said go outside the sanctuary and a little deeper and it seems to have made no difference whatsoever. My 2 cents
     
  7. NWGratefulDiver

    NWGratefulDiver Mental toss flycoon ScubaBoard Supporter

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    Everything adapts ... that's just how the world works. It was built with self-correcting mechanisms to maintain a balance.

    But adaptation is inherently slow ... it sometimes takes millenia for corrections to achieve a new balance ... and human-induced changes occur on a much quicker time-frame than that. And let's be honest, were it not for human actions, these fish wouldn't be where they're not supposed to be in the first place.

    Furthermore, we have no idea what side-effects this or any other adaptation will incur ... but I guarantee you there will be some. They may or may not be conducive to human interests.

    Let's not be too quick to say "problem solved" ... the planet doesn't particularly care whether its adaptations serve our interests or not ... and if we're not more careful, we may someday find ourselves without reefs to dive on ...

    ... Bob (Grateful Diver)
     
  8. scubafanatic

    scubafanatic Great White

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    I see no downside to letting scuba divers kill every single lionfish in the Western Hemisphere, where they don't 'belong' in the 1st place, moreover scuba divers will have almost zero impact on their populations anyway other than inside a few shallow, well-dove sites, where perhaps native species can be preserved intact and survive long enough to learn to eat lionfish and turn the tide against the alien invaders (lionfish). We'd be better served taking measures to preserve apex predators (sharks / groupers) as they are the only realistic hope of really turning the tide.
     
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  9. grantwiscour

    grantwiscour Regular of the Pub

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    Thanks for sharing the info and the pic. That's important info for all of us.
     
  10. RonFrank

    RonFrank Orca

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    We are a large problem so doing the best we can to reduce a menace fish we introduced is not stoopid! I saw a video of a Scorpion fish eating a Lionfish on the web. This is not the video but rather what a scorpion fish looks like.


    [​IMG]


    This looked to be a mature Lionfish as it looked almost a big as the Scorpion fish.

    I agree, shark fining may be a bigger issue, but bringing awareness to these issues and talking about them never hurts. Lionfish are tasty! Hope it catches on....
     
  11. offthewall1

    offthewall1 Scuba Instructor

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    Richard,

    You're right and wrong. Most killed (by spear happy humans) lionfish are quickly consumed by predators. I have watched Groupers and Sharks happily remove dead lionfish from the ends of pole spears.

    My biggest concernwith this is that in essence - we are feeding the fish and the fish are adapting to "expected" meals. On my recent trip both the sharks and groupers followed us around because they are getting use to the free meals of speared lionfish. This is no different then taking the sharks a steak. Most experts don't think feeding the wild animals is a great idea. Not the bears in the woods and not the sharks in the sea.

    We could debate all day whether this is a good idea or not.

    I am not convinced Lionfish are a problem on reefs anywhere. What I am convinced of is that humans have overfished the reefs everywhere - to the point that there are very few fish left and there are no big fish left anywhere. The introduction of lionfish just happened to have coinicided with a drastic reduction of fish due to overfishing. Its much easier to blame tyhe lionfish then to blame ourselves.

    I've spent as much time in the water as virtually any other human being... and I have yet to witness a Lionfish eating another fish... but I have observed quite a few other things killing and eating them.
     
  12. DandyDon

    DandyDon ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

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    Wonder how they get as big as chickens? :confused:

    Cut one open sometime, and see what it ate that day.
     
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  13. RonFrank

    RonFrank Orca

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    Lionfish, are carnivorous.

    For someone who claims knowledge of marine life you seem ignorant. Lionfish have voracious appetites and they feed on eggs as well as adults. We need all the Sharks and Goliath Grouper we can get! For more info do a search...

    http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/08/25/eveningnews/main5265488.shtml
     
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  14. smellzlikefish

    smellzlikefish Loggerhead Turtle

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    That's a pretty bold claim, especially from someone who lives in Maryland.

    I don't have to visit the Caribbean to know that lionfish are eating other fish, mostly because that is what lionfish do. Lots of lionfish eat lots of native fish. The removal of big predators may have had a very small small effect on the voracity with which the lionfish have taken over the Caribbean. If you want to see the damage an invasive species fulfilling a niche can do, visit any habitated, isolated island (Guam and brown tree snakes, Hawaii and, well, pretty much everything that lives here today). Overfishing is a huge issue and as much as I'd love to blame the lionfish invasion on a lack of predators, the dots just don't connect. The lionfish shouldn't be there in the first place.
     
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  15. drrich2

    drrich2 Great White

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    Researchers have examined stomach contents of dead lionfish and found native fish species in them. They are eating fish.

    I concede discarded lionfish carcasses will impact the ecosystem in some way. Then again, live ones may be a detriment to the food chain that ultimately feeds higher predators, and the lionfish themselves are a 'human impact,' so there is no 'hands off' option.

    Ken, I get the impression your personal views on killing fish for sport are affecting your presentation of the issue. You have a valid point that lionfish carcasses alter predator behavior, but terms like 'maliciously' and 'spear happy humans' cause you to come across to me as offended by the act of humans killing fish, rather than someone who's carefully weighed the pro.s & con.s of culling vs. ignoring this invasive species, and looking for ways to rationalize discouraging people from culling. I may be intuiting your reasoning and motivation wrongly. Some people collect the bodies of those they kill, but kill all they can - does that bother you?

    Richard.
     
  16. Kitty_Kat

    Kitty_Kat Scuba Instructor

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    Very interesting! I hadn't heard of/seen a triggerfish go after a lionfish before this. I recently spent a while in the Turks and Caicos doing some research with lionfish so here's my two cents for what it's worth...

    Lionfish definitely do eat native fish. We dissected quite a few and looked at the fish they were eating relative to their size and it was apparent that they are able to prey upon fish that are more than 1/2 their size (unusual), which makes them a dangerous invasive species. We did observe some grouper preying upon the lionfish, but rarely... (we did also see a couple of spiny lobsters fighting off lionfish with their barbed antennae which was humorous, but we don't think they were actually eating them) Some others that were working there had built up a relationship with the native fishermen where they would not gut any large finfish they caught at sea, and would instead give the stomachs to us upon their arrival at the docks so that the stomach contents of the larger fish could also be examined. Findings from this: lionfish constituted a negligible portion of the diet of these larger fish.

    I agree completely that speared/dead lionfish should not be fed to the native fish/sharks. We made the mistake early on of spearing the lionfish that we caught, so by the end of the dive we were carrying around a net full of bloody dead fish which of course peaked the interest of a friendly reef shark. In order to preserve our comfort, this bag was surrendered to the shark. This really only makes these predators more interested in interacting with humans, which isn't a healthy relationship, and as has been seen in places such as the Mediterranean (eels), does actually endanger divers. This one shark (who happened to be distinctively scarred) that we accidentally fed repeatedly approached us for the next 6 months! After this incident, we found that nets were very effective at capturing lionfish and were a much better alternative. We did go out of our way to target lionfish for the purpose of plotting their distribution (GPS) compared to size. We found that most lionfish of intermediate size are most commonly found in the seagrass beds and mangrove habitats where large grouper/triggerfish/sharks which could prey upon them are ​not​ found. For this reason alone, I do believe that they should be targeted by people (just not fed to the local fish). They are very yummy to eat and very slow ;). Part of the work we did was to encourage the locals to start catching them as a part of the local fishery. Of course we realistically aren't going to be able to exterminate/remove them completely from the Atlantic... they are there to stay, but their numbers should be controlled.

    Hopefully that made some sense :). I'd be happy to see if I can find a publicly accessible link to some of that research if anyone is interested.
     
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  17. drrich2

    drrich2 Great White

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    Is that true in terms of safety? I can see some advantages, but having a live lionfish in a bag near your person, even a 'tough' bag, seems hazardous, more so than spearing it from a distance and swimming off.

    Richard.
     
  18. offthewall1

    offthewall1 Scuba Instructor

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    Richard,

    There is no doubt lionfish feed on native species... they have to eat... but they don't feed on native species any differently than native species already feed on each other. Lionfish are simplky an addition to the equation. I have weighed the pros and cons. I see points for both sides. I am simply saying I now see evidence that native species are adapting to control the lionfish population.

    I am not offended by humans killing fish for consumption. I'm not a vegetarian or environmentalist whacko. I believe nature is taking it's course - as it always has. The oceans have sorted themselves out for millions of years... long before people started diving. To me, the only invasive species in the oceans are humans. Fish can travel anywhere in the ocean they wish to travel. Some make longer journeys than others. Regardless, they all adapt - and have for millenia.

    I see no reason to kill and collect fish? What is the purpose? I have a friend who collects lionfish for his home fish tank. This is great - and they're a beautiful fish to have in captivity. I have no problem with this. What I have a problem with is killing them in the name saving native species and leaving the carcasses laying around the reefs until a predator finds and eats them. I also don't think DM's should be spearing them and feeding sharks with them as a spectacle. I think this is impacting the balance and altering native species behavior.

    I think if you're going to kill lionfish... the kill should be for consumption by you. I've heard of places where the lionfish are hunted and then served for dinner that evening. Great idea.
     
  19. offthewall1

    offthewall1 Scuba Instructor

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    We have water in Maryland... perhaps the most beautiful bay in the world. Ever heard of the Chesapeake? We also have a short 2 hour ride to the Atlantic Ocean - ever heard of it? I also wonder if you know that ALL fish eat other fish!

    Invasive species is a human term. Fish and Animals adapt to their changing environments and have for millions of years. The primary drive in the extinction of animals and fish over the past 200 years is human encroachment. We have overfished the seas and overdeveloped land once ruled by animals. Take a look around the globe. Lionfish have not been the cause.

    This current drive against lionfish reminds me of the drive to eradicte sharks after the movie Jaws. Another over-reaction by uneducated humans. Nature will take it's course -
     
  20. NWGratefulDiver

    NWGratefulDiver Mental toss flycoon ScubaBoard Supporter

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    You have a flair for overstatement.

    I've heard of it. I've seen it. It's not the most beautiful bay in the world. It's not even the most beautiful bay I've seen ... and I haven't seen very many of the world's bays.


    ... and this backs up your claim that you've spent as much time in the water as virtually any human being ... how? The Atlantic off the Maryland coast is undiveable for significant parts of the year. And even if it weren't, living two hours away means you're not going to be diving out there every day. There are people in the world who live two minutes from water that they dive in every day ... in some cases, all day.

    According to your profile you've got less than 5,000 dives. I personally know people with three times that ... and there are people out there with way more dives than them.

    FWIW - I live five minutes from a great dive site ... in a place that I consider way more beautiful than Cheasapeake Bay ... and I can count on one hand the number of people I know who dive it more often than I do on a regular basis. And I couldn't come even close to making the claim you did.

    Not true ... there are many ... many ... species of fish that eat plankton and other forms of life that are not fish.

    Invasive species is a human invention ... that's really rather the point. They wouldn't be there if we hadn't put them there.

    This is true ... and that adaptation works on a time scale that typically involves centuries or millenia ... not a handful of years. Humans can create ... and have created ... problems that adaptation cannot resolve. And when they have it has typically ended badly for other species.

    This is also true ... but irrelevent to the problem of lionfish in the Caribbean. No, lionfish aren't the cause ... we are. And the question isn't what we can do about it ... the obvious answer to that question is "precious little". The question is what will the balance become once it's eventually achieved ... and how will it affect the reefs?

    The drive to eradicate sharks after Jaws was nothing compared to the ongoing drive to eradicate them for the profit their fins bring on the Asian market. That's a far greater problem than the lionfish ... and one we have total control over. Perhaps that's the problem we should be seeking to eradicate ...

    ... Bob (Grateful Diver)
     
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