National Geographic Young Explorer Erin Spencer will spend one month in the Florida Keys documenting efforts by beachside locals to contain a recent and dangerous influx of invasivelionfish. Follow along with The Lionfish Project on Explorers Journal, Erin’s project website,Facebook page, and Twitter.
Big problems call for big solutions, and there has been a lot of talk recently about how to address the big problem of invasive lionfish in the Atlantic, Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico. Although experts believe complete eradication of lionfish is highly unlikely, we can – and should – work toward population control. Divemasters are hunting them on dives, conservation organizations like REEF are hosting successful lionfish derbies, and lobstermen are hauling them up by the hundreds in their traps. But how can the average person help the lionfish problem?
The answer is simple. Eat them.
Fortunately for us, lionfish have moist, buttery meat that is often compared to hogfish, one of the most popular reef fish served in restaurants. The mild taste and flakey texture allow lionfish meat to be prepared in a wide variety of different ways. From raw to deep fried, grilled to blackened, lionfish dishes are bound to fit anyone’s taste. By eating lionfish, you’re not only treating yourself to a new, tasty dish, but also doing your part to help save native reef fish from this voracious predator. Not to mention it’s good for you- lionfish have proven to be high in Omega 3 fats, which play a crucial role in brain function and may reduce the risk of heart disease.
Looking for a little inspiration? Below are a few of my favorite recipes for preparing lionfish. For more ideas, check out REEF’s Lionfish Cookbook, and then ask your local fish provider about how to get your hands on this delicious intruder.
Remember: Eat sustainable, eat lionfish!
Castaway’s Wreck Diver-style Lionfish
Courtesy of Castaway Waterfront Restaurant and Sushi Bar in Marathon Key, Florida
- 42 ounces lionfish fillets, patted dry
- flour (for coating)
- 5 cloves garlic, diced
- 2½ cups chopped tomatoes
- 5 tsp. capers
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1/4 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
- 2 T. chopped fresh basil
- parsley or kale for garnish
- lemon wedge for garnish
Preparation: Dredge fillets in flour to lightly dust. Place in sauté pan with small amount of hot butter over medium heat. Cook first side, careful not to burn.
Turn over fish when golden, and reduce heat while adding garlic, tomatoes, capers, white wine and lemon juice. Cover to hold steam in and cook until fish is fork-tender. Add basil and serve immediately. Garnish with sprig of parsley or kale and lemon wedge.
Castaway’s Wreck-Diver style lionfish- a personal favorite. Photo by Erin Spencer.
Courtesy of Tricia Ferguson and Lad Akins of The Lionfish Cookbook
- 8 Lionfish fillets
- 1 tomato
- 2 scotch bonnet peppers
- ½ onion
- 8 limes
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
Preparation: Dice fish into 1-inch pieces and place in a shallow dish. In a small bowl, juice the 8 limes. Add the limejuice to fish and marinate 1 ½ hours.
Dice the onions, tomatoes, and scotch bonnet peppers, and add to fish mixture. Stir in salt and cilantro. Cover and place back in refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Remove from refrigerator and serve.