This unconventional method of fish management is being used to control the lionfish population.
The most interesting invasive lionfish management practice currently being employed in Cuba, Belize and Honduras is teaching sharks to eat lionfish!
Divers are using special implements to literally hand over lionfish to sharks in hopes that the sharks will develop a craving for them and subsequently seek them out as a food source.
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Lionfish were first spotted off the coast of Florida in 1985. Since then the population has spread all over the Atlantic, Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico with sightings off the coast of Rhode Island, Panama and Venezuela.
The lionfish is actually from Indonesia and was introduced in the United States through pet-shop aquariums. The problem with lionfish in a marine eco-system is that they have few natural predators and they are voracious eaters. Lionfish have venomous spines so few predatory fish mess with them. They will eat small fish and mollusks almost endlessly. When lionfish move into a reef or isolated marine biome they can reduce the small fish population in that area by as much as 80% in just five weeks.
How else can humans manage the lionfish populations? One way is to encourage sport fishing, and in particular, spearfishing and trapping. Some States and countries have held contests with lucrative prizes related to the capture or lionfish.
Another way to promote interest in catching lionfish is to encourage eating them. Many southern coastal states and South American countries have restaurants that are offering lionfish.
Another common management practice for any invasive species is to ban their import and wanton release into the wild. If we can prevent more lionfish from being imported to the Atlantic Coast and penalize private owners that release the fish in the oceans and open waterways, we may be able to eventually cut down the population through management practices.