Previous Thread
Next Thread
Print Thread
#385372 08/10/10 05:28 PM
Joined: Nov 2002
Posts: 2,538
Short Offline OP
OP Offline
Do your civic duty: Eat this fish!
Humans armed with knives and forks enlisted to control lionfish invasion

[Linked Image]

The federal government has thrown its weight behind plans to field a novel weapon - the American appetite - in a bid to halt the spread of the voracious and invasive lionfish.

Like Tribbles proliferating in the holds of the Starship Enterprise, lionfish have spread throughout the Caribbean and along the Atlantic Coast in recent years, most recently invading critical reef habitat off the Florida Keys.

The non-native fish, with their "manes" of venom-tipped spines, have no natural predators in these waters. They eat indiscriminately - consuming some 56 species of fish and many invertebrate species - and reproduce rapidly.

This has prompted scientists to turn to an equally ravenous species to control the beautiful pest.

"The only way to really help the reefs is to actually get people interested in fishing for lionfish," says Renata Lana, a spokeswoman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which just launched an "Eat Lionfish" campaign. "In fact they are quite delicious fish."

Lionfish, also called turkey, scorpion or fire fish, are not considered food by residents of the Indian Ocean and the Western Pacific, their native habitat. They were kept as exotic pets in the United States for years, and researchers say it was probably someone in the aquarium trade who first freed lionfish into the Atlantic near Florida, where they were first spotted in the mid-1980s.

Since then, there has been a population explosion. A single female produces about 2 million eggs a year, and hatchlings become sexually mature in about one year, said James Morris, ecologist at NOAA's Center for Coastal Fisheries and Habitat Research National Ocean Service in Beaufort, N.C.

"Lionfish have a life history that has allowed them to be a very aggressive invader," he said. "When they invade, they eat the abundant prey first, and then start dieting on other species."

Lionfish now thrive from North Carolina to the Bahamas, in shallow waters and coral reefs, as well as deep water environments. They can live warm or cold water, and have been seen as far north as Massachusetts. In some coral reefs they outnumber native commercial species.

Conservationists say the lionfish threaten recovery of overfished species like grouper and snapper by eating them, consuming their prey and competing for space in the reefs. They also feed on species like parrotfish, which normally control the growth of algae on a reef.

Morris says it would be virtually impossible to eradicate lionfish in the Atlantic. But he says there is evidence that targeting lionfish in specific areas such as coral reefs can make a big difference.

This is where the "Eat Lionfish" campaign comes in, lending the considerable weight of NOAA, a government agency, to grassroots efforts in the same vein.

Tasty, but watch the spines
Promoters say lionfish are tasty, with light, white and flakey meat. But they admit to challenges to starting a trend toward lionfish as a dish - including persuading fishermen and diners that the spiky creature is safe to catch and eat.

"Many people are afraid to eat the fish because they are venomous, but it's only in the spines, not in the meat," says Lad Akins, director of operations for REEF, a marine conservation nonprofit. "With just normal precautions, you can fillet it, and get a very nice piece of fish."

Wayne Mershon, owner of fish supplier Kenyon Seafood in Murrells Inlet, S.C., says he has a customer for lionfish - a chef at a seaside hotel will take as much as he can provide. He serves it as a delicacy. But only a few fishermen will bring it in -- even when they catch it accidentally while fishing for grouper and snapper - because they don't want to risk handling it.

"I think the main concern with most of the fishermen is that once you've caught it, getting it back in the water without getting stuck by it," said Mershon.

The lionfish sting normally is not deadly to humans, but it is extremely painful and makes some people very sick.

In its battle to win over hearts and stomachs, REEF has been sponsoring " lionfish derbies."

"You can engage and educated the public about the (lionfish) issue -- of course you're removing all those lionfish -- but you also cook the fish up and give people the opportunity to taste lion fish and see how good they are," said Akins.

In REEF's first derby, held in May 2009 in the Bahamas, enthusiastic competitors brought in 1,408 lionfish. Starting next month, it has derbies scheduled for Key Largo, Marathon and Key West, Fla., where the lionfish population is exploding.

NOAA is working on a series of lionfish events at restaurants across the United States in the coming year, aimed at creating a chain of demand -from fisherman, to wholesaler, to the dinner table.

Meantime, REEF is producing a lionfish cookbook, with recipes from around the Caribbean, and distributing environmental information and instructions on how to avoid, and treat, wounds from the fish's venomous spine.

Akins favorite lionfish dish? "Flavorwise and in terms of simplicity, it's lionfish seviche," he said. "It's really good with tortilla chips."

That tastiness may turn out to be the lionfish's Achilles' heel.

"If it didn't taste good we would be in a world of trouble," he says.

FYI - related topics on this board:

Live and let live
Short #385463 08/11/10 05:54 PM
Joined: Oct 2007
Posts: 1,198
I think it is "i" before "o" in this case.

Joined: Nov 2002
Posts: 2,538
Short Offline OP
OP Offline
Got it; thanks!

Short #385475 08/11/10 10:32 PM
Joined: Mar 2004
Posts: 705
OK, so I'll to try to catch anything, eat most anthing. But how do you clean it? Seems to be lots of references to spines and poison, and pain. More than your average catfish. Carry a pruner?

Flyfishing my way through mid-life crisis.
krehfish #385478 08/12/10 07:36 AM
Joined: Jan 2003
Posts: 7,479

Short #396211 01/03/11 09:03 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,400
Lionfish "The Caribbean's New Delicacy,"- "Eat'em to Beat'em"

[Linked Image]

The lionfish invasion continues in the Caribbean and Florida Keys. The spread of the invasive lionfish has been well chronicled throughout media outlets. Now, one organization has taken the battle to a completely new level! It is time to eat them to beat them!

The Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) announced the release of "The Lionfish Cookbook", a collection of 45 delicious recipes designed to encourage the removal and consumption of invasive lionfish in the Atlantic. Lionfish have a delicate, mild-flavored, white meat and are considered a delicacy. Lionfish meat is safe to eat and contains no venom.

The Red Lionfish, native to the Indo-Pacific, are the first non-native marine fish to successfully invade Atlantic waters. Lionfish densities in the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and the East Coast of the United States are on the rise due to their lack of predators and prolific, year-round reproduction. Thriving lionfish populations pose a serious risk to marine ecosystems through their predation on native marine life including both commercially and ecologically important species.
These predators have been rapidly expanding in the Caribbean and Atlantic waters, voraciously preying on local fish, shrimp and crab populations across the region and in Belize which is known for its world famous Barrier Reef.

ECOMAR launched the Belize Lionfish project earlier this year, which included workshops o how to handle and capture a lionfish, how to prepare them for consumption among other things. A monthly lionfish tournament was also held, where local fishermen and tour guides were awarded for capturing the most lionfish. All of this was done in effort to eradicate the elusive lionfish from our fragile ecosystem.

Some scientists are now listing the invasive lionfish species among the top 15 threats to global biodiversity. While REEF has organized local fishing "derbies" to hunt the lionfish, including handling tips and tasting sessions, Akins said making humans the invading species' top predator was the best way to fight back against the threat it posed.

The front section of the cookbook, which calls the lionfish "The Caribbean's New Delicacy," gives useful tips on collecting, handling and preparing the colorful species, as well as providing expert background on its ecological impact.

Lad Akins, author of the cook book, said he hoped the cookbook could help create a commercial market for lionfish that would speed their eradication. Proceeds from the sale of this book will support REEF's marine conservation and lionfish research activities. For more information on REEF or to purchase a cook book visit

Ambergris Today

Short #402475 03/15/11 06:10 PM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,400

Short #404661 04/11/11 09:55 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,400

Short #405647 04/20/11 08:31 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,400

Scientist in Residence: My 'Seascape of Fear'

Eric Heupel is a graduate student at University of Connecticut in Oceanography. He keeps a personal blog at Eclectic Echoes and Larval Images, and used to part of The Other 95% team along with me before we closed shop. You can find Eric tweeting as @eclecticechoes.


Hey folks, Kevin asked me to do a stint as a guest blogger here at DSN. Right now I am writing this from South Water Caye in Belize, so this entry is going to be decidely less “Deep” than the normal posting at DSN. Unfortunately I’ll also have to submit it to Kevin after I get back stateside since there is no internet here on the island! (Strangely I love that!)

My advisor runs a Reef Fish Ecology class every two years so my lab mate (Tori) and I have to come down here as TA’s for the field research portion of the class. It’s a great job, but it is also work. Up at the crack of dawn and working until well past 10pm. Sunburn, mosquito bites, no air conditioning, no cell phone, no internet. On the plus side of course is the whole tropical isle thing, plus the reefs and animals surrounding us. Great tunes and a bit of One Barrel in the evenings doesn’t hurt either.

The evening computers at the bar ritual. Eric on the left.

Our lab focuses on fish ecology and conservation so this class is directly related to our studies. In years past Peter has had students come up with studies related to patterns of diversity, territoriality (damselfish are amazing for this) and social foraging. This year the theme was “Seascape of Fear” with student groups creating studies to explore topics related to predation rates, piscivore feeding groups, reaction of fish to snorkel censusing etc. While helping the students (and counting snorkels) Tori and I were able spend a bit of time getting some snapshots and making observations that may turn into future project ideas for the lab or the next iteration of the class.

For me the “Seascape of Fear” was clearly defined by one animal. Not sharks or moray eels (usually the more feared tropical fish), for me it was a beautiful fish that at a stretch reaches 18″ long – the Indo-Pacific Lionfish (Pterois volitans).

Both Tori and I took the same class as undergraduates – I took the first offering of the class in 2007, while Tori went on the next trip in 2009. Neither of us spotted a single Lionfish the entire time we were in the water for either trip. This year however, we spotted a lionfish under the dock on the first evening on the island. I feared, correctly, that this was only a sign of things to come. Soon enough our worst fears were confirmed with lionfish being spotted in the coral rubble and patch reef right off South Water Caye. I counted 13 lionfish in a two hour active search (snorkeling though) over a small area of patch reefs about 100 square meters. There were four of them living in crevasses in one coral head about 3′ high and 5′ diameter. We found them on every dive, at 8 different dive sites, in mangroves, rubble, patch reef, continuous reef and in the seagrass covered rubble at the edge of a sinkhole.

Fear the Lionfish

If you’re not up to speed on the lionfish invasion, they were originally spotted off Southern Florida in 1992. By 2000 they were confirmed from Florida to North Carolina and in Bermuda. They now occur throughout much of the Caribbean and up the Atlantic Coast to Long Island Sound and southern Massachussetts. There is debate about how far north there is a year round population, as they have a minimum temperature of ~10°C. They have even been found by divers at 400′ depths, which unfortunately also implies we will not be able to get them all, even if we decided to try.

The lionfish are predators and share a trophic level with many ecologically and commercially important species such as snapper and grouper. In a long-term evaluation of lionfish diet in the Bahamas, J.A. Morris found that they ate mostly bony fish such as gobies, wrasses, basslets, cardinal fishes and damselfish (all reef favorites!). Eating up to 20 fish in a 30 minute period these voracious predators are crowding out native predators through competitive exclusion and some evidence suggests they have become the dominant forage fish consumer in some areas. Smaller lionfish also eat crustaceans including shrimp and juvenile lobster. Unfortunately there have been few reports of anything in the Caribbean eating lionfish, except perhaps other lionfish.

Of course one of my major interests is the larval and juvenile stages of marine animals, and the lionfish is no disappointment here. After reaching sexual maturity it is thought the lionfish can potentially release in excess of 30,000+ eggs every other month. After fertilization by the male, the eggs drift in the currents for 3-5 days when the larvae emerge and begin hunting ciliates in the plankton. Larval duration is still being studied but it is believed that larvae continue to drift in the currents for another 3-5 weeks before settling out at about ~10mm length. This planktonic duration was sufficient to allow the lionfish to throughout most of the Caribbean and up the eastern seaboard in a very short time. The genie is well and truly out of the bottle now, no putting it back.

The best (only?) option at this point may be to create a viable fishery for the lionfish and eat our way out of the problem. In Florida this past fall I had the pleasure of trying them. They have a nice white flesh suitable for sushi, ceviche, filets or maybe frying whole with the fins spread wide for presentation Umph. Maybe culinary geniuses like Bun Lai from Maya’s Sushi in New Haven can help create a demand for the new Atlantic stocks of Indo-Pacific Lionfish.

Next time I’ll cover some of the other things I/we do in this lab including some work on deep sea conservation issues.


Panoramic view of the field station from the outhouse on Carrie Bow Caye.


Morris et al. (2009) Biology and Ecology of the Invasive Lionfishes, Pterois miles and Pterois volitans. Proceedings of the 61st Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute pp. 409-414

Morris, J., & Akins, J. (2009). Feeding ecology of invasive lionfish (Pterois volitans) in the Bahamian archipelago Environmental Biology of Fishes, 86 (3), 389-398 DOI: 10.1007/s10641-009-9538-8

Shanks AL (2009). Pelagic larval duration and dispersal distance revisited. The Biological Bulletin, 216 (3), 373-385 PMID: 19556601


Short #407808 05/14/11 11:12 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,400
Lionfish, The Beautiful Outlaw [HD]
by Lights! Camera! Ocean! TV (videos)

Our most recent documentary, "Lionfish, The Beautiful Outlaw" is getting a lot of attention. This is the film festival cut. Segments from the film are featured on Ocean in Google Earth.

Link Copied to Clipboard
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
Cayo Espanto
Click for Cayo Espanto, and have your own private island
More Links
Click for exciting and adventurous tours of Belize with Katie Valk!
Who's Online Now
0 members (), 111 guests, and 0 robots.
Key: Admin, Global Mod, Mod
Forum Statistics
Most Online7,413
Nov 7th, 2021 HELP! Visitor Center Goods & Services San Pedro Town Message Board Lodging Diving Fishing Things to Do History Maps Phonebook Belize Business Directory Picture of the Day

The opinions and views expressed on this board are the subjective opinions of Ambergris Caye Message Board members
and not of the Ambergris Caye Message Board its affiliates, or its employees.

Powered by UBB.threads™ PHP Forum Software 7.7.5