Lionfish are stunning creatures, with their regal, flowing spines that float around them like formal gowns. But these venomous fish are invasive, and the battle to keep them from overtaking the Caribbean may be lost — unless we eat them, suggests PhysOrg.
Native to the Pacific Ocean, the showy predator has worked its way into the Caribbean and is spreading at an alarming rate, with experts concerned that total eradication may already be impossible.
Lionfish voraciously consume native species, and they are a major tax on coral reefs that are already threatened by problems like overfishing, ocean acidification and pollution.
The situation is dire, and biologists warn that the lionfish invasion may be the final straw for Western Atlantic and Caribbean coral reefs. Obliteration of native fish species would also be a serious blow to the Bahamian economy that depends upon tourism and fishing.
Larger predators tend to ignore lionfish, even when they’re practically handed to them on a silver platter — those colorful spines are an undeniable warning to stay away.
But if there’s one way to dramatically cut lionfish ranks without harming other species, it’s getting seafood lovers to see the culinary value in these potentially tasty sea creatures.
"Until we can develop a better understanding of this invasion, one of the few control mechanisms may be to develop a market for them as a food fish," coral reef expert and lead researcher Mark Hixon told PhysOrg.
Hixon his Oregon State University team are looking for solutions with the help of a $700,000 grant from the National Science Foundation as part of the American Recovery and Investment Act.
"Lionfish are pretty easy to catch, taste good and could be advertised as a conservation dish," Hixon said.
And if you're wondering how to prepare lionfish for dinner, check out a collection of recipes at LionfishHunter.com, a site dedicated to preserving native Caribbean species.