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Catch and release, island style

Yesterday I went diving on paradise reef in St Kitts, West Indies. Here we frequently see grey reef sharks.

Sharks are the silent shepherds that tend to the reefs and keep the eco system strong and vigorous like the wolves that were reintroduced in Yosemite.

Parrot fish are the secret gardeners keeping the coral healthy as they feed on unhealthy coral crops. The many other schooling fish large and small do their part.

New to the Caribbean is the beautiful but invasive lion fish introduced by irresponsible saltwater fish tank owners, releasing them into the sea once they become board with the constant care and maintenance required of the saltwater sanctuary they created for fish removed from their natural ecosystem. Mostly harvested from pacific reefs where fish conservation practices are slack. That’s one theory.

Regardless the reefs are overrun in the Atlantic and Caribbean oceans with this beautiful but slow moving creature without a natural predator. Juvenile fish, sheltered in shoals beneath coral heads where they wait till maturity to flourish to adulthood. Here these unprecedented predators, the lion fish, linger and have become fat on a juvenile food source. A bountiful buffet

for these anonymous animals of prey.

These beautiful fish with manes of meddlesome poisonous spikes are a scourge and a blight to the reefs already challenged by changing water levels and warming waters, bleaching coral and killing a fundamental ecosystem that’s been in existence since time immemorial. Continuously threatened by the effects of climate change.

It has become a practice by many dive operators to hunt these elegant and idle insurgence. They have a sweet meet when fried in butter but they makes a wonderful ceviche. A new menu item.

Not uncommon is to feed them to sharks, to introduce a new food to the diet of the former villain of the sea, the misunderstood shark. The shepherd of the sea.

Today I helped the cause. I call this post catch and release… to the sharks.

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