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    Posted June 27, 2014 by
    South Carolina
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Travel photo of the day

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    Two Lions Saved These Divers From a Close Encounter With a Great White Shark


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     While visiting Charleston, South Carolina, Penelope Penn dined at Fleet Landing, a sustainable seafood restaurant, where she tried lionfish for the first time. The experience was so enjoyable that when she went back home to Virginia she periodically called the restaurant to see when the fish would be back in stock.

    Earlier in June 2014, she visited the restaurant again to have lionfish. Also known as pterois, this venomous fish is most commonly found in the Indo-Pacific ocean, however, they’ve started cropping up off the Atlantic coast and some of the species are now considered invasive species in the region.

    Penn, intrigued to learn about the lionfish, found spear fishermen Tony Hancock and Mike Hamilton. The pair dive routinely to catch lionfish for restaurants. She visited them on their boat in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, on June 23 to learn about one encounter Hancock had while diving for the venomous fish.

    She says while Hancock, pictured on the right in her photograph, was diving for lionfish 160 feet deep and 60 miles off the South Carolina coast when he came across a great white shark. With a lionfish in hand, he held the fish in front of the shark, driving the great white away. The neurotoxins from the lionfish are enough to scare even a large predatory shark away, Hancock explained to Penn.

    Hancock’s shark encounter inspired Penn to share this story. The lionfish has no natural predators, and because of that has decimated smaller fish populations and coral reefs in the East Coast. She is hoping more people will start to eat it to help lower its population in the ocean. Due to its venomous fin rays, few divers and restaurants sell lionfish, Penn explains, but she hopes if demand increases that will change.
    - Jareen, CNN iReport producer

    We're so fortunate to live in a world that offers travel on every level. Literally.
    We can hike majestic mountains, languish in cool Redwood forests, soar into billowing clouds, and dive into the exciting waters of our oceans and rivers. Recently,  two spear fishermen, Mike and Tony, traveled from Florida to South Carolina to hunt for Lion Fish, which are rapidly breeding and ravenously destroying all marine life along our southeastern coast.

    Facebook is full of photos of divers' swollen limbs after they received the painful sting by one of those 13 venomous spines you see.
    Tony, the diver on the right and the Captain of the boat, had just speared two Lion Fish and turned around to find himself staring in the face of a Great White.
    He's been diving for over 20 years, so shark encounters aren't uncommon but this one was just a bit too close for comfort he said. Immediately, he held up the two Lions in front of the sharks face.
    Though the Lions typically weigh only a few pounds, even an enormous Great White knows better than to challenge the deadly spines of that fish, he says.
    Immediately, the shark turned around and swam away.
    "And I lived to dive another day," grinned the grateful Tony.

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