[slideshow] By Chris Pibl and Jackson Rafter
The Red Lionfish is an invasive species in the Southern Atlantic, originally from the Indo-Pacific waters, and was first sighted in the Bahamas in 2006. In the Caribbean, the lionfish has no natural predators, and has been found to prey on many ecologically and economically important species. There have been up to 20 juvenile fish found in the stomach of 1 average sized lionfish! Lionfish have venomous spines which give it a feared reputation, and thus, many local fisherman avoid these fish for harvesting and consumption. However, we know that their meat is safe to eat and think they are actually quite a tasty fish!
In an attempt to bring awareness to the local community, the patch reef group gave a presentation on the lionfish during the Wemyss Bight homecoming. We demonstrated the proper way to handle and prepare a lionfish and explained that they are indeed edible. We demonstrated how to cut the venomous spines off the lionfish so that it would no longer be dangerous to handle. Then we filleted and served the fish to the locals, “salad” style, meaning that it was marinated in lots of lime juice to cook the meat with an assortment of veggies. We brought samples of our lionfish salad around, and many locals refused to eat it! Even though just the spines are venomous, there is a general conception that if you eat any part of the lionfish you will be poisoned. As we went along, however, some of the Bahamians tried the salad after we showed them it was harmless and ended up with a complete paradigm shift! We even convinced some of them to catch more lionfish after we told them it could be negatively impacting many natural fish populations. All in all, a success. Go Patch!