He is a Lion fish - actually a juvenile Lion Fish, about the same size as my little finger:
Lion fish are native to the Indo-Pacific, but have recently been spotted here in Cozumel. No-one knows how they got here although there are various theories involving releases in Florida. They look innocent enough right?
In fact they are voracious predators eating native fish and crustaceans in large quantities. They are not known to have any native predators here in Mexico and because of this and the fact that they reproduce quickly there is concern within Cozumel's National Park Organization that they will compete for food and space with local species and damage the delicate ecological balance on Cozumel's reefs. They are equipped with venomous dorsal, ventral and anal spines, which deter predators and can cause painful wounds in humans.
So how does this involve me? Well on Saturday I was diving along with a group of divers and I saw a tinsy lion fish. Pretty cool I thought and looked around for something to catch him with. 'Rats teeth', I had nothing. So I left the little guy at large. Well today I armed myself with two plastic bags - those who know me know I like to dive with back ups:)
Anyway I figures I might see him in the same spot as on Saturday. The conditions today were good and with my discover scuba group in tow I made my way back to the spot where I'd seen him. On the way we saw two carribean reef squid. This put me in high spirits because I love to watch squid. When I got to the general area I started to look around. We found a sting ray and I checked a few rock piles which looked like the ones I'd seen him on on Saturday. Just as I was about to give up hope (what are the chances of finding such a little guy in such a large ocean I thought), there he was. Hanging out on a sponge. So I poped out my little plastic bag and scooped him in.
He caused quite a stir on Sunset Beach. One of the other instructors (Caesar from Caribbean Divers) called the local TV station - Chanel 10. My first thought - I look a mess - hair like straw, dry salty wrinkly skin from the ocean, and they're going to want me to talk (yikes!). I made a quick decision not to attempt to speak in Spanish (a wise move I think). The reporter took lots of video of the fish, a little of me and a lot of Caesar. I have to say Caesar took to the lime light very well!
I then took my little friend to see Julio where we transferred him into a cooler. Feeling hungry, I returned home. I had planned to keep him overnight, take him to show the people at work and then take him to the Marine Park tomorrow. Well, within 10 mins of my getting home I received a call from the Marine Park asking if they could come and collect him. Someone had turned me in! They arrived in minutes. I learned that this was only the 3rd lion fish to have been caught in Cozumel. Sadly I doubt my little friend will survive the week. The NP officer told me that he'd probably end up pickled in alcohol. When he saw the look on my face he back tracked and said that they would probably keep this one alive to study. A likely storey - I think he was just trying to stop me from crying.
And so the question is -am I a reef preserver or a lion fish murderer???