The lionfish is elegant, majestic, and invasive! Lionfish live in balance with nature in the coral reefs of the Indo –Pacific and are a prize subject for photographers. Lionfish have venomous spines – their zebra like strips serve as a warning to predators to stay away and avoid contact. Contact with their venomous spines cause extreme pain to humans.
It is not clear how lionfish were introduced to waters of the Caribbean and Atlantic, but lionfish have invaded these waters at an alarming rate. The most common of these lionfish is the red lionfish – Pterois volitans. Without any natural predators, lionfish have the potential to wreak havoc on the natural balance of the fish populations. They have voracious appetites, reproduce at an alarming rate, and have no natural predators.
The new thinking about this lionfish invasion goes something like this: IF YOU CAN’T BEAT THEM, EAT THEM! Lionfish are now features of cookbooks, restaurants, and fish derbies. Reef.org, a Florida non-profit marine conservation organization, has published The Lionfish Cookbook by Tricia Ferguson and Lad Akins. Many dive operations in the Caribbean are now training and putting a spear gun in the hands of willing divers to help control the lionfish invasion. I recently discovered that lionfish ceviche is quite delicious!