Lionfish are not supposed to be in the Western Atlantic and are considered an invasive species in local waters. The term “invasive species”
means they have been unnaturally introduced to an environment where
they are not normally found and exhibit characteristics that allow them
to out-compete the native species and be more successful than they
would be in their natural range.
Lionfish are relatively small, slow-moving fish but they are aggressive
predators. Since local species do not see the lionfish as a threat, and
lionfish have no known predators (they have venomous spines which
humans need to avoid), the population is growing at an alarming rate
and posing a serious threat to local species and ultimately to Bermuda’s
coral reef system and our marine environment.
Fishing for lionfish is a natural solution to controlling Lionfish
numbers. If fishermen shift their focus towards targeting lionfish this
will take the pressure off the native species that help maintain the
healthy reef. Simply put, humans need to become the predator of the
lionfish. The annual “Eat ‘em to Beat ‘em,” lionfish tournament, put on
the organization Groundswell, aims to cull lionfish by spearing them
in large numbers and to show the general public how to safely handle
these venomous fish and prepare them for consumption.
Lionfish is without a doubt the most eco-friendly fish one can consume since it is the only fish whose demise helps the marine environment. Luckily lionfish are also delicious. Their firm, white fillet looks
like a cross between hogfish and grouper (rockfish). Once the venomous spines are removed with scissors, the fish can be handled safely and
can be prepared in much in the same way as snapper, coney or turbot.
In fact, lionfish can be used as a substitute in any recipe that calls for a
white, flakey fillet.
Lionfish is increasingly recognised as a top choice by local chefs and
is beginning to show up on local menus. Chris Malpas, executive chef
for the Bank of Butterfield,
pioneered the use of lionfish
in traditional Bermuda
recipes like fish chowder and
lionfish cakes. Chef Malpas
saw early on that incorpo-
rating this invasive species
in local dishes would help
dispel the myth that this was
a strange and poisonous fish.
Ryan Solien, chef de cusine at
Victoria Grill, has also taken
an interest in the lionfish and
can be seen at the “Eat ‘em to
Beat ‘em,” tournament pre-
paring lionfish in a number
of different ways. Chef Ryan believes the fish’s mild flavour allows the
flesh to take well to different seasonings—and one doesn’t have to be a
fish lover to enjoy it.
So the next time you are in the market for fish, whether at a restau-
rant or out fishing, look for lionfish and “eat ‘em to beat ‘em.”
If you would like to join the hunt, visit www.oceansupport.org to
become a licensed culler or go to www.lionfish.bm to see a map show-
ing where these fish have been found.
COOKING UP THOSE
PESTILENT LIONFISH CAN
BE A ROARING SUCCESS
BY MATTHEW STRONG &