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Caribbean sharks taught to appreciate the sublime flesh of lionfish

sharks-eating-lionfish-invasive-species_34127_600x450By Victor Ozols, From BlackBook Magazine

Lionfish are jerks. They were doing perfectly well in in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, but just had to swim on over to the Caribbean, where they have no natural predators, and breed like little sea rats. Okay, maybe they were actually released from tropical aquariums by unscrupulous fish owners, but in any case they’re screwing up the ecosystem and making people like me kind of scared to go into the water, what with all their pointy, venomous spines. Just yesterday (19) I wrote about eating lionfish at the Beach Club at Oil Nut Bay in Virgin Gorda, BVI, and today I stumbled across an interesting National sharks-eating-lionfish-diver_34123_600x450Geographic story about how Caribbean sharks are being taught to eat the invasive critters.

Now, you’d think that sharks would automatically know to eat these things, but since they’re a relatively new addition to the area, the sharks are all, uh, I don’t know what this is and I’m certainly not putting it in my mouth. That’s why local divers have been hand feeding lionfish to sharks (I should say, crazy local divers are hand feeding lionfish to sharks) to get them accustomed to the light, sweet flesh.sharks-eating-lionfish-dead-dock-caught_34122_600x450

The sharks have responded well, causing the divers to take their culinary education to the next level by wounding the lionfish and letting the sharks finish the job. Good thing the sharks aren’t affected by the fish’s poison, because they’re really digging the new gourmet treat.

sharks-eating-lionfish-biting-three_34121_600x450This could lead to a weird new problem. What if the sharks eat all the lionfish, and there’s none left for tourists like myself to enjoy pan-seared with coconut broth, sesame rice, and sweet chili sauce? Like the sharks, I was just developing a taste for it.

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Original photo story from National Geographic

sharks-eating-lionfish-eyeing_34124_600x450Pictures: sharks taught to hunt alien lionfish

Two sharks ponder a possible meal of lionfish in the Honduran marine park in 2010 (see attached photo)

Divers are working on a plan to get the native predators to feast on the invasive lionfish.

“At the beginning, the divers just killed lionfish and fed sharks with them to get the sharks to develop a taste,” said photographer Antonio Busiello, who observed the process in action.

image“In the second step, to have the sharks develop an interest in hunting them, divers started to leave wounded lionfish so that the sharks could taste them. After a while, [the sharks] did start to hunt them and go after them.”

Living up to their voracious reputations, many sharks can eat venomous prey, such as lionfish, and suffer no apparent ill effects, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History.

PHOTOS: by Antonio Busiello

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A few of the related articles in iNews Cayman:

Cayman Island dive operators continue the lionfish battle with PADI course at:

Taming the lionfish: Cayman fights back against the invaders at:

Yes, you can fight invasive species by eating them at:

Restaurants and watersports operators to partner for major lionfish culling effort at:

There are even more. Just place the word “lionfish” in our website’s search engine.


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