Here, we characterize a Danio rerio zebrafish pigment cell mutant (melanophore integrity mutant), which displays a defect in maintenance of melanophore and iridophore number. Mapping and candidate gene analysis links the melanophore integrity mutant mutation to the vacuolar protein sorting 11 (vps11w66) gene. Quantification of vps11w66 chromatophores during larval stages suggests a decrease in number as compared to wildtype siblings. TUNEL analysis and treatment with the caspase inhibitor, zVAD-fmk, indicate that vps11w66chromatophore death is caspase independent. Western blot analysis of PARP-1 cleavage patterns in mutant lysates suggests that increases in pH dependent cathepsin activity is involved in the premature chromatophore death observed in vps11w66 mutants. Consistently, treatment with ALLM and Bafilomycin A1 (cathepsin/calpain and vacuolar-type H+-ATPase inhibitors, respectively), restore normal melanophore morphology and number in vps11w66 mutants. Last, LC3B western blot analysis indicates an increase in autophagosome marker, LC3B II in vps11w66 mutants as compared to wildtype control, but not in ALLM or Bafilomycin A1 treated mutants. Taken together, these data suggest that vps11 promotes normal melanophore morphology and survival by inhibiting cathepsin release and/or activity.