In an earlier post I wrote about how divers kill and catch the non-native lionfish that are causing so much trouble in the waters around the Gulf of Mexico, Florida and the Caribbean. The methodology is simple, kill them as humanely as you can, take care with the spines, but then what…?
Well that’s the question, how can you make lionfish control financially beneficial?
Many agencies across the affected region are working to support and encourage control methods, from trying to ‘train’ sharks and groupers to eat lionfish by offering them dead fish. There is a lot of controversy over divers feeding sharks, with good arguments on both sides regarding changing the shark’s natural behavior. Personally I worry about training sharks to associate humans with ‘feeding time’, but I can see that if sharks do learn to hunt lionfish then control of the nuisance species might be a little easier. This one will run and run as there’s strong arguments on both sides of the debate.
Another method that has been widely encouraged is to offer lionfish for human consumption and this is where I do take some pleasure in the process as I do like to eat fish, but prefer food that is sourced sustainably.
Around the world there are a number of fish that have been released by accident or on purpose to provide food resources, many in fresh water. Few have received the attention that lionfish have, with several websites and books offering recipes for how to deal with them once landed.
I’ve come across several dive centers that organize lionfish hunting events, offering prizes for catch totals and size and so forth, these appeal to fishermen and hunters, I like it best though when the centers work with restaurants and retailers to encourage the public to try lionfish and to make it a species that features regularly on menus, and thus encourages local fishermen to target it.
I’ve only eaten lionfish once. My fish was cooked within a half hour of being caught, sautéed in a little butter and OMG (as the young folk say), it was truly delicious. This was in the Caribbean where some fishermen who target beneficial species such as parrotfish believe the lionfish is poisonous and not good eating, a situation that organizations and educators are trying to change.
If you’ve never tried lionfish, you really ought to. In the meantime, you can see footage of a shark eating a lionfish here: