Sunday, August 28, 2011

Filmmaker's Journal: one of Bahama's groupers comes to play

The last time I was in the Bahamas this past spring, I was there aboard Blue Iguana Charters' MV Kate to film sharks . . . again. Not that I ever get tired filming those incredible animals but, after all, variety is the spice of life, right? That's what makes the Bahama's so much fun and Capt. Scotty Gray knows how to pack a lot into one trip: sharks, wreck diving, dolphins, and beautiful reefs.

Here's a quick video that briefly shows some of the shark fun the Bahamas are famous for, but also highlights a great encounter that crew member Rob MacDonald and I had with a large grouper. Groupers are popular gamefish with Florida sportfishermen and that's unfortunate because their numbers have declined - just when the marine ecosystem needs them most. With the explosion in the past few years in the number of lionfish, a beautiful but voracious reef fish that is an invasive species to the Caribbean, the grouper is one of only a few large predators that can potentially help keep the lionfish population in check, if only the grouper population itself was in better shape.

The grouper that visited Rob and I was initially interested in our bait crate, which contained some slabs of fish to attract Caribbean reef sharks. The reef sharks knew who was boss and you'll see one dart out of the grouper's way, as groupers are not afraid to butt heads with a shark if need be. With no easy meal available, the grouper proceeded to act like a cat weaving between our legs looking for a good petting. Actually more of a back scratching, as these large fish will attract small, pesky parasites and the grouper won't shy away from an opportunity to dislodge some of these hitchhikers.

The grouper continued to pass back and forth between the two of us for a good five to ten minutes. Then Rob pulled out a hunk of fish from the crate as a thank you to the grouper for spending time with us. And with that, it was on its way.

It's always a treat when you have the chance to safely interact with large animals. Sometimes it takes a few minutes to size up the animal's behavior to ensure, as best you can, that you won't be harassed or bitten. There's always that thought: "I wonder if this big fella is looking for some payback for all the relatives we humans have pulled out of the sea?"

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