Grouper filmed hunting and feeding on lionfish

| 26/02/2015 | 11 Comments
Cayman News Service

A Nassau grouper eating a lionfish (Photo courtesy of Lionfish University)

(CNS): A Nassau Grouper has been caught on film hunting, killing and eating a lionfish off the coast of Little Cayman in what is believed to be the first video footage of the predator helping itself to the invasive species. The video was recorded by Jim Hart, co-founder and executive director of Lionfish University, an NGO created to raise money to help tackle the invasive species threatening Caribbean reefs.

While groupers have eaten the fish in the past when fed by divers, marine experts were not convinced that the local predator was likely to snack on the lionfish on their own. As a result, the footage showing the grouper stalking and eventually striking and scoffing the lionfish without any interference from divers is a significant step in the fight to reduce their numbers.

Although this may be learned behaviour as a result of those earlier efforts to feed the grouper, it appears that the larger fish are finally working out how to snag the tasty fish without falling foul of the dangerous spines.

With no natural predators in the Atlantic, the Pacific species has been reproducing at an alarming rate and competing with native fish species for food. Despite a massive effort by divers living in and visiting the Cayman Islands to catch as many as possible, the battle to at least control lionfish numbers, as most marine experts agreed eradication is now impossible, has not been easy.

However, if the Nassau grouper develops a taste for the fish, along with continued and coordinated culling efforts and fishing, the lionfish numbers could be at least controlled.

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Category: Marine Environment, Science & Nature

Comments (11)

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  1. Mauvis Gore says:

    That is a great step forward. I have watched Nassau grouper “herd” divers to catch lionfish that the groupers then dispatch, and observed groupers in the Indian Ocean hunt with octopus and divers (again using the diver!) but not this step where the grouper is disorienting the grouper and then carefully choosing when to attack. Brilliant!

  2. E. Stenna says:

    Nature is awesome! This is encouraging for the control of lionfish IF indiscriminate fishermen will cease fishing the grouper enmasse!! A few years ago fishermen caught hundreds of grouper over a few days after discovering “grouper holes” off Cayman Brac and East End.

    I love grouper as much as the next man but overfishing will decimate the species and no one will benefit!

    • Sharkey says:

      As it’s a fact that the grouper keeps the food in its stomach until the acids in the stomach breaks it down for the nutrients . The grouper has eaten a toxic lion fish, thus we don’t know how many lion fish the grouper has to eat until the grouper becomes toxic . Heads up people let’s raise the bounty on the lion fish , we all love grouper.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I think you underestimate how fast grouper (or any other ambush predator) can move in the split-secodn when they strike. Hence why it looks to our eyes like a ‘break’ in the video.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Those groupers look delicious.

  5. Caymans List says:

    It does show the grouper stalking the Lion Fish, planning an attack all the way from his den to the surface. However there appears to be a gap in the video as it reaches the surface after which the Lion Fish looks injured, it could have been a bite from the Grouper or it could have gotten speared and that part of the video cut out, I looked at it several times and I have to say I’m gearing more towards the later. It is however great footage, but I am not convinced it was an unassisted kill..

    • icanoewenonah says:

      Let’s hope it is unassisted and that people may want to think about releasing Groupon (or not fishing for them in particular) even though Grouper is delicious. I would think/hope that a number of people may want the lionfish population down and be willing to forgo a grouper meal.

    • Anonymous says:

      I just viewed the video supplied here and can confirm that there is no break in the video. I know the videographer who shot this and can attest that the lionfish had not been speared, harassed or in any way affected by divers. This is a Nassau grouper doing what we’ve all hoped they might eventually do… eat the lionfish without human assistance. Such a shame that we now have so few groupers left in Grand Cayman! Please stop eating what few we have left here if you have any other options at all.

    • Peter Hillenbrand says:

      I can promise you this video is unedited, there is no “gap” in it’s creation, and that the Grouper was untouched by any of the divers. I was not in the water with them that day, but watched the video with Jim Hart, who shot the footage, that evening. This is the real deal. It is a very interesting video that has given rise to a lot of discussion and debate. Everyone associated with it’s being made public were concerned about the video sending a message that it is ok to feed predators Lionfish trying to train them. We are united in our belief that feeding any predators speared Lionfish has more negative consequences than positive. Bringing the Lionfish home and eating it yourself is a much better alternative.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Hopefully this will raise some awareness to be more vigilante about fishing for Grouper…

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