Lionfish are an invasive species wreaking havoc on reefs and fish populations in the Atlantic Ocean since their accidental release by humans a few decades ago. With no natural predators, these fish have bred and multiplied freely. They have voracious appetites, devouring large quantities of smaller reef fish each day. Conservation experts encourage scuba divers to spear the fish and remove them from the ocean to preserve the delicate balance on the reefs. Another school of thought is that sharks, eels, groupers, and other predators should be taught to see the lionfish as a food source. These divers in Belize are witnessing the reaction of large reef sharks to the opportunity presented by this spearfisherman. It is no surprise that a shark can smell blood in the water from an impressive distance, and they can track that smell to the source. But equally impressive, these sharks had learned to react to the sound of the spear being released. When the tip of the spear strikes coral, the sharks turn abruptly and swim toward the sound, having learned that this might mean a meal can be had. They even react to the sound of the spear being released when it strikes nothing. The sound of the rubber band twanging and the spear cutting the water is almost imperceptible to the human ear, but to these sharks, it is clear enough to have them react from a distance as if somebody rang a dinner bell. These scuba divers are in no danger as long as they move slowly and stay away from the fish and the spear. The sharks become agitated, and they could accidentally bit in a frenzy, without meaning to attack a human. But the divers know to keep a safe distance from the food and the competitive response to the lionfish., Scuba diving is a thrill beyond words. Divers enter a world of powerful and formidable animals, each with their own ability to defend themselves. In this world, humans are intruders, and improper behavior can have immediate and serious consequences.
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