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Caught on tape: diver saves juvenile reef fish from invasive lionfish

The invasive lionfish has a well-documented appetite for juvenile reef fish like baby grouper and baby snapper. One die-hard lionfish hunter noticed something moving inside the mouth of one of the fish he speared over the weekend, and ended up making an incredible save.

Cayman United Lionfish League (CULL) member Zach Larrabee was out culling with the gang from Ambassador Divers.

Mr. Larrabee told Cayman 27 he was admiring his container full of freshly-culled lionfish when he noticed one of them had what he believed to be a baby snapper in its mouth. Once he was back on board the boat, it was a race against time to pry the fish from the long-spined predator’s jaws with his bare hands.

“I had to hold these live lionfish after I had dumped them into the cooler, it was a quick process, so from me dumping them in and me trying to save that little guy, it was fairly, somebody had to say wait, let me get my phone, you know, that’s how quick I was trying to get that fish out,” said Mr. Larrabee.

Always cool under pressure, Mr. Larrabee got it done without being stung by the venomous spines.

Mr. Larrabee told Cayman 27 he’s killed thousands of lionfish in his days as a culler, but said saving that little fish from the invasive predator’s mouth and watching it swim happily away was a very fulfilling first.

About the author

Joe Avary

Joe Avary

Joe Avary has been with Cayman 27 since 2014. He brings 20 years in television experience to the job, working hard every day to bring the people of Cayman stories that inform the public and make a difference in the community. Joe hopes his love for the Cayman Islands shines through in his informative and entertaining weather reports. If you have a story idea for Joe or just want to say hello, call him at 324-2141 or send an email to

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