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Lion Fish in Lembongan – Friend or Foe

By 11 April 2017January 30th, 2024Conservation, Underwater Life

Lion Fish in LembonganThe Lion Fish is an interesting creature. Parts of the world, Lion Fish are a pest which are hunted and killed. In other parts of the world, it is another unique fish to look out for while diving. The Lion Fish in Lembongan, are indigenous to the area, so for us, they are an interesting fish to check out.

Why are Lion Fish hunted in some parts of the world?

In parts of the world the Lion Fish is considered a pest, they are not indigenous to the area.  Lion Fish are an introduced species, which have very few predators to control their population. This
then creatures an unbalance underwater. With more Lion Fish on the reef, hunting the smaller fishes, the Lion Fish cause fish numbers to reduce. To help give the smaller fish a fighting chance and to help restore some balance, humans have started to intervene and cull the Lion Fish.

Often it is not a good idea for humans to get involved in controlling nature by culling, but it is because of humans that Lion Fish were introduced to these areas.

Lion Fish are native to Indo-Pacific area. Within this area, Lion Fish are a common reef fish, found normally at a depth of 0 to 50 meters.

The amazing spread of Lion Fish:

Lion Fish have been described as one of the most aggressively invasive species on the planet. Lion Fish were first found off the East Coast of the United States and the Caribbean Sea around the mid 1990s. It is expected that the Lion Fish was first introduced around the Florida coast area. The Lion Fish may have been purposely discarded by unsatisfied aquarium enthusiasts. This is in part because Lion Fish require an experienced aquarist, but are
often sold to novices who find their care too difficult.

In August 2014, when the Gulf Stream was discharging into the mouth of the Delaware Bay, the Lion Fish was able to spread further. Lion Fish were first detected in the Bahamas in 2004. In June of 2013 Lion Fish were discovered as far east as Barbados, and as far south as the Los Roques Archipelago and many Venezuelan continental beaches. Lion Fish were first sighted in Brazilian waters in late 2014. Genetic testing on a single captured individual revealed that it was related to the populations found in the Caribbean, suggesting larval dispersal rather than an additional release.

Lion Fish have successfully pioneered the coastal waters of the Atlantic in less than a decade and pose a major threat to reef ecological systems in these areas. Since Lion Fish thrive so well in the Atlantic and the Caribbean due to nutrient-rich waters and lack of predators, the species has spread tremendously. A single Lion Fish, located on a reef, reduced young juvenile reef fish populations by 79%.

This amazing spreading of the Lion Fish population and the effects that it has on reef life, is the reason humans hunt and kill them. Rigorous and repeated removal of Lion Fish from invaded waters could potentially control the exponential expansion of the Lion Fish in invaded waters. A 2010 study showed effective maintenance would require the monthly harvest of at least 27% of the adult population. Because Lion Fish are able to reproduce monthly, this effort must be maintained throughout the entire year.

Lion Fish in LembonganLion Fish in Lembongan and their natural environment:

In the waters around Lembongan and Penida, it is often that we see Lion Fish. Of the 12 species of Lion Fish, there are a few different types found in this area. All of the different species of Lion Fish that we get here are native to the area. This means that they were not introduced by humans and the balance of the Lion Fish population is controlled by the environment.

Generally the Lion Fish does not have many predators. Moray eels, cornet fish and large groupers, have been observed preying on Lion Fish. Sharks are also believed to be capable of preying on Lion Fish with no ill effects from their spines. Lion Fish are also know to engaging in cannibalism, with larger Lion Fish, preying on smaller Lion Fish.

Predators of larvae and juvenile Lion Fish remain unknown, but may prove to be the primary limiting factor of Lion Fish populations in their native area.

Poisonous Spines:

Lion Fish have 18 venomous spines in total; 2 pelvic spines, 3 anal spines, and 13 dorsal spines. These spines are not poisonous to touch but contain venom that if injected can be very painful to humans. Their venom is rarely fatal to healthy adults, but some species have enough venom to produce extreme discomfort for a period of several days.

There is a possibility for a human to be stung without any venom being injected. Lion Fish are not aggressive towards swimmers and divers. Most accidents happen to fishermen, who happen to catch them.

Pests, poisonous spines, affecting the underwater balance for small fish… What is good about Lion Fish?

Besides the issues they have caused, Lion Fish are stunningly beautiful to see while diving. Their feather like fins make the Lion Fish look very majestic while they are hunting. Lion Fish are skilled hunters, using specialized swim bladder muscles to provide exquisite control in the water column. This allows the fish to alter its center of gravity to better attack prey. The Lion Fish then spreads its large pectoral fins and swallows its prey in a single motion.

They blow jets of water while approaching prey, to disorient them. In addition to confusing prey, these jets of water also alter the orientation of the prey so that the smaller fish is facing the Lion Fish. This results in a higher degree to predatory efficiency as head-first capture is easier for the Lion Fish.

Check out our Dive Site page for more information about the sites around Lembongan and Penida