Lionfish On the Menu – How You Can Help
Since we first wrote about the Lionfish invasion, about a year ago, this fish species has continued its expansion in the waters of Puerto Rico, and throughout the Caribbean. Thankfully, there are groups of SCUBA divers and fishermen that are specifically targeting Lionfish in an effort to reduce their numbers in our waters. However, in order to really make a dent in the population explosion, more people need to get involved in the eradication effort.
Lionfish (Pterois volitans) is not native to the Caribbean, so they have no natural, local predators — which allows their population to flourish. While they are beautiful fish, they have voracious appetites and they are eating their way through the native fish and lobster populations. The result will be devastating for fishermen, the aquarium industry, and SCUBA/snorkel tourists, alike.
But What Can I do About it?
Good question. To paraphrase something that I read recently — We humans can devistate any species quite rapidly, if we put our minds to it. While I hope this fish continues to live happily in its home oceans, we do need to eradicate this non-native species from our local waters.
What you can do as a consumer
Eat it! Ask for it a local restaurants to encourage a market. Once the spines are cut off, the flesh is perfectly safe to eat. As far as I know, El Fogon a la Curva in Anasco is the only place in Puerto Rico that has Lionfish on their menu every day. Currently, they serve it fried daily. They also have it available as sushi on the weekends.
We tried it, and it was tasty. It’s a white-fleshed fish, flaky with a mild taste. Tasted a lot like fried flounder. I bet it would be great pan seared or sauted.
While we were eating dinner, we had a nice talk with Freddie, the Lionfish fisherman. He said that these Lionfish are so numerous, that they are eating all the juvenile edible fish, so soon (if not stopped) there will be no other fish for us to eat. He said he has seen the number of these fish multiply rapidly on the reefs he fishes and has seen them eat everything.
The day we talked, he caught 38 good-sized fish. And he goes out every day and does the same. Last year he said he was getting only able to find about 10 Lionfish/day, and they were smaller in size. We need to eat more Lionfish, and fast!
Let us know if you know of other places that serve Lionfish on a regular basis. We’ll check out the restaurant, and possibly add it to this article.
What you can do as a fisherman or diver
Local fishermen and SCUBA divers are encourage to report Lionfish sightings. Learn how to safely catch them (remember they have lots of venomous spines and a sting can be extremely painful!). They are best caught with a spear. Other than a few local fisherman, there are a few dive companies, agencies and response teams in Puerto Rico (Sea Ventures, VCHT, DNER, Ecotono & Scuba Dogs) that help control the Lionfish population. Local entities will pay a bounty for each fish caught.
Let’s all work together to get more Lionfish onto dinner plates and out of our local waters! Our sealife depends on it!
El Fogon del a Curva is located at Carr 115 KM 7.1 in Anasco. Phone number is 787-826-0096. Open Wednesday to Monday, closed Tuesday. Sushi is available Thursday to Sunday.
Use this map to locate places mentioned in this article. You can click on a placemark to view the GPS coordinates for that place.