What is the Lionfish’s natural predator?

Lionfish ZooKeeper

Short answer… humans!  Divers and non-divers! All of us can help in one way or another.  We’ll get into how a bit later….

Natural predators in the Indo-Pacific and the Red Sea (where lionfish are indigenous) known to eat lionfish include sharks, grouper and giant eels.  We’ve visited the Maldives and have seen Lionfish but not hunted by anything yet.   The locals have said that the trumpet fish like to eat the floating egg sacks and they have witnessed a particular black group munching on a Lionfish.  We visited again in January 2023.

However, there are no known natural predators in the areas where lionfish are invasive.  These include the Caribbean, the Atlantic, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Mediterranean. Divers are encouraged to spear as many as possible. For now, divers and commercial fishermen are the natural predators of the Lionfish.

In the Indo-Pacific and the Red Sea, marine life has had hundreds of years to learn to eat lionfish. However, in the other areas, they have been invading, it’s been less than fifty years for the larger fish to know they can eat them.

DON’T Feed the sharks or anything yourself.  It teaches them to associate food with divers. We’ve had sharks follow us throughout the dive and try to take our fish.  That will get you bitten and the last thing a shark wants to do is bite you. 

Once, an eel came out of the coral and chased us.  It was scary. We had to poke at it a few times before it got the point and turned away finally. 

Trying to feed the Lionfish to any other marine life puts the diver in danger.  Divers will never be able to train marine life to eat the Lionfish.  Over time we are hoping that it can be learned.

If you have ever been to a zoo, you have seen one or more signs conspicuously displayed that say “DON’T FEED THE ANIMALS.”  

Interestingly enough, we have never seen a sign like that under the water while diving. To some people, it’s just fine to feed the animals- fish to attract sharks, to draw out a moray eel, or a goliath grouper.  The Team has seen all of these and disapproves of each of them. We oppose all of these activities, and so do most educated divers. 

Feeding changes the natural behavior of sharks and other marine hunters. We dive in part to enjoy just about the only place on the planet where human activity hasn’t messed with nature. It’s a lot more exciting to see a shark hunting than to watch it eat dead fish of a spear or crate box. We enjoy watching marine animal behavior and prefer it to be unaffected.  

Let’s keep nature natural!

In some areas of the Caribbean, sharks and groupers are offered dead or wounded lionfish.  
Feeding sharks can create negative behaviors between sharks and divers.  In some cases, sharks have shown aggressive behaviors unexpectedly towards divers when extracting lionfish.  This is unlike natural behaviors that are observed between sharks, hunters, and other recreational divers.  

It is crucial to avoid interacting with the natural behaviors of sharks or other animals.

What can we do to help our reefs? Natural Predator
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