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April 2022    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 48, No. 4   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Can Sharks Learn to Hunt Lionfish?

and why teaching them is not the best idea

from the April, 2022 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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Until the 1980s, the Indo-Pacific lionfish did not live in the Atlantic or Caribbean. But then at least one, perhaps a pregnant female - which can produce as many as two million eggs a year - ended up in the Atlantic, probably off Florida, thanks to humans. Some think an aquarist tossed it in. Others speculate a hurricane demolished a home aquarium, and the fish escaped. Regardless of how it got introduced, it found itself in waters where it had no natural predators, and nearly four decades later, the population is running amok.

After just four decades, lionfish are thriving throughout the Atlantic and the Caribbean, from The Bahamas to Belize, from Bermuda to Brazil. They live on shallow reefs down to depths unapproachable by scuba divers and are devouring the endemic fish that don't recognize them as predators. It's a mess.

Is There an Answer?

Some well-intentioned and experienced divers are trying to introduce the lionfish to possible local predators.

The Washington Post reports that in Cuba's Gardens of the Queen National Park, dive guides are spearing lionfish and feeding them to waiting reef sharks hoping that they'll develop a taste for them, spines, and all. The same is happening at other diving locations in the Atlantic/Caribbean area....

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