You can see it in 1980’s movies, almost like it’s another character actor. Whether it’s a comedy, horror, action, or drama, there’s something that appears across the board. Mullets and polyester are a good first guess. Hair metal is up there. But we’re an aquatic themed publication, so we’re looking at you, home aquarium filled with expensive, exotic fish.
But it’s not all fun-and-games, having these species contained in your home. Like a bad date on prom night, something is bound to go sour, and someone is going to get left out in the dust. The bad date in this scenario is the lionfish.
Ever since the 1990’s, the lionfish has spread like a menace throughout the waters of the Atlantic. Nobody knows how it got there, and nobody knows if it will ever go away, but what we do know is that the population seems to have a “patient zero” that came from Florida. From that point it was able to go as far north as New England and as far south as Venezuela. They’re found throughout the Gulf of Mexico, the Florida Keys, the Caribbean, and pretty much anywhere you used to have to worry about where you were putting your hands anyway. I’m talking about urchins, of course.
But this added menace has caused many a painful, burning sensation for divers from all over the world who visit these destinations to see the unique and vast array of wildlife that life in the corals, walls, wrecks, and rocks of the area. The lionfish, unfortunately, looks here to stay.
But hey, if you can’t beat it, eat it.
This might be a tough choice for some. A lot of people who enjoy exploring wild species in their natural habitats don’t like to consume their oceanic friends, but take this into account: the lionfish eats babies. It will consume the young of just about any species, and in the Atlantic it’s unchallenged. Like most invasive species, the lionfish has very few natural predators. So, humans created the problem, why not help solve it?
For starters, if you have a recipe in mind, you can make your own lionfish carrier to bring one in while out on a dive.
If you’re feeling less ambitious, there are restaurants all around the Atlantic and Caribbean region that will be more than happy to serve you their local variant of a lionfish dish.
If fresh is your favorite color, Ingredients restaurant in Bonaire is the place for you. In addition to their extensive menu of land and sea creature as well as fresh vegetables, there’s also the lionfish ceviche.
If that’s not quite to your taste, it also comes grilled, as pictured above. No matter how you get it, you’ll rest well knowing that you’ve done your part to eradicate this menace.
Everybody knows that if it walks, swims, or sprouts, New Orleans can fry it. That’s precisely what’s going down at GW Fins in Louisiana. In addition to their fried lionfish appetizer and an array of lighter dishes on the menu, the restaurant deserves recognition for their local connections to fishermen that help them personally aware of the sustainability issues affecting the region. Their chef and owner, Tenney Flynn, is also in charge of local “Lionfish Rodeos,” which are events in which several divers go out on the hunt to collect the invaders.
If you’re in Puerto Rico and happen to be of the type that enjoys food and fun, stop by El Fogon de la Curva. Here you can get fantastic outdoor seating with an ocean view and famous Puerto Rican fare alongside their new visitor, the lionfish, when available. Pig on a spit, Corona in hand, and a fresh catch of the day is a great way to wind down on this amazing island.
As for me, I’ve worked up an appetite… I think I’ll go grab my fishing gear.
– Todd Allen Williams, Senior Editor