Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Lionfish... Yum

Invasive Species Threatens Atlantic, Caribbean

Pacific Lionfish
No one is quite sure how they arrived, but the Pacific Lionfish can now be found in the Bahamas and along the coast from Florida to the Carolinas. Sightings range even more widely. What were scattered sightings in the early 1990s are now confirmed and multiplying populations as these voracious carnivores devour local reef fish. Because the prey population is much larger in the Pacific there is great concern that the Atlantic reef population will not withstand the interlopers.

The solution? Turns out lionfish are rather tasty:
According to a recently released NOAA report, one of the only viable methods for controlling these predators is to encourage a market for them. Professional tasters have ranked the fish high for taste and texture, and a recent pilot project which brought the fish to several top New York and Chicago restaurants proved very successful. The eating of lionfish has become a grass-roots cause in some local areas, and several restaurants in the US and the Caribbean are serving up the fish whenever they can.
There are no special restrictions on the harvesting and serving of lionfish; only regular commercial licenses and normal food safety practices are needed. Some care must be taken with the showy, but poisonous spines:
Most spines of the Lionfish are very sharp and venomous. In total there are 18 venomous spines, mostly concentrated on the back (dorsal side) of the fish. If the skin of a predator is punctured by the spines, a neurotoxin is injected which can affect muscle reactions and can be very painful. In extreme cases envenomation can cause severe cardiovascular and neuromuscular reactions, depending on the amount of venom injected and the health of the individual affected.

Anecdotal evidence has shown that one hour after death Lionfish venom becomes harmless. Be aware that the spines are still extremely sharp and painful, and to be assured safety it is best to remove the spines when handling the fish for extended periods of time.
Save our ecosystems! Enjoy a dish of lionfish today! Those of you in the area can enjoy one yourself. Fillet instructions. Recipe. More recipes! More information from More information from NOAA.

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