This reef shark is a well known character in Belize. He lives on a reef that is a favourite spot for scuba divers and he has a habit of following the liveaboard from one dive site to another over several days. His name is "Patches" due to the two large scars on his head just behind his eyes. It is believed that he received these scars when he was younger as he fed on the surface of the ocean. The frigate birds pecked at him, causing wounds on his head that healed, but left scars. The locals speak fondly of Patches, having become very fond of him over recent years. He is 9 feet long with a mouthful of teeth, yet they are not afraid when he shows up to accompany them as they drift over the coral. Scuba divers in Belize are combatting the problem of invasive lion fish by spearing them as they dive. These fish were never meant to be in the Atlantic ocean. They were released by accident and they have over populated and destroyed populations of native fish, risking the overall health of reefs throughout the area. The lion fish are beautiful, but they are also deadly predators and they have no natural predators of their own. It is hoped that spearing lion fish will decrease their numbers and that feeding them to the sharks and eels will create a recognition that they are food to be hunted. Patches is not following the divers out of affection. It may be curiosity, but it is largely his interest in the possibility of a free meal as they capture and kill the lion fish. Once injured, the sharks are able to eat the lion fish without being stabbed by their venomous barbs. There are different schools of thought on feeding the wildlife. Some experts maintain that it is a bad practice to have animals associate humans with food. Others believe that the benefit outweighs the negative. In the meantime, scuba divers throughout the Atlantic are being encouraged to harvest the lion fish and remove them from the reef. As it turns out, they are a delicious fish to eat. Perhaps when we also see them as an excellent food source, hunting them for profit will be the solution that we are looking for.
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