Lionfish soon on the menu?

REEF has new cookbook on the way, writes Kevin Wadlow for

For that next island-themed soiree, consider serving up lionfish seafood crepes, or maybe beer-battered lionfish.

The Reef Environmental Education Foundation based in Key Largo makes its possible with its new volume, “The Lionfish Cookbook: The Caribbean’s New Delicacy.”

“The whole idea to create a market for lionfish, which would give people an incentive to remove the fish from our waters,” said Lad Akins, director of special projects, and a co-author of the cookbook

The 125-page book features 45 lionfish recipes largely created by Tricia Ferguson, a professional chef living in the Bahamas, where lionfish have been a problem for a while.

The first run of 3,000 book copies has been printed and can be ordered through the organization’s website:

Images by noted wildlife photographer David M. Stone illustrate the cookbook, selling for $16.95. Proceeds benefit marine-conservation efforts by REEF and others.

Lionfish, a species native to the Pacific Ocean, carry an array of venomous spines and have no natural predators in the Atlantic Ocean. They breed rapidly and eat ravenously.

“Without lionfish population controls, native-species populations are likely to decrease dramatically with some commercial species reduced to unharvestable levels and the possibility of extinction of vulnerable reef species,” notes the book.

Fortunately, “lionfish have a delicate, mild-flavored, white meat and is considered a delicacy,” according to REEF.

There are those nasty spines to contend with when fileting, but the cookbook contains detailed instructions on avoiding stings (wear puncture-proof gloves, and use scissors to snip the spines). Fishery managers urge anglers and divers to take all the lionfish they want.

Lionfish were first spotted in Florida Keys waters in January 2009, but now have become a common sight at some reefs. Lionfish inhabit shallow to deep waters.

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