Lionfish: A Lucrative Business?

Local newspaper El Occidental reports that lionfish, the invasive species that is now present throughout Caribbean waters, has created a fairly lucrative economic niche in western Puerto Rico. The lionfish, which was first seen along Puerto Rico’s coasts in 2002, is now a more popular choice in restaurants than the usual favorite, red snapper.

Jazmín Seda, president of the El Corozo Fishermen’s Association explains that fishermen are being paid $2.00 a pound for the cleaned fish, which is then served fried in the local fishing centers [villas pesqueras] or sold by the pound for consumption at home.

Fred Lentz and Tommy Dragonetti, co-owners of the restaurant “El Fogón de la Curva” (between Añasco and Rincón) say that the species has become the main attraction of their establishment. They sell it whole, fried, in fillets, breaded, in patties, in sauce, as sushi—a great variety of ways. Lentz, a fisherman who has lived in Puerto Rico over 30 years, explains that “along the coast between Rincón and Añasco, there are thousands and thousands of lionfish; I have a friend that fishes juvenile lionfish, between 200 to 300 per week, and sells them alive for an aquarium outside of Puerto Rico, but I personally catch them with a harpoon.”

Secretary of the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (Departamento de Recursos Naturales y Ambientales or DRNA) Daniel Galán Kercado says that the Agency is in the process of determining how much fishermen will be paid for the capture of lionfish, for which $50 million has been set aside. Galán says that “it will be an initial incentive; it is not going to be a permanent payment for the capture of the lionfish, and $ 50 billion is almost nothing for all fishermen there are in all of Puerto Rico.” He stressed that the most important step is to find alternatives to sell it for consumption in Puerto Rico and to export it abroad.

For Lentz, the DRNA pay-for-capture plan won’t work, “because the government does not have the economic resources to pay for the capture, because there are millions along the shores around all Puerto Rico.” Instead, he suggests the creation of a market so that the lionfish are consumed in the same way as lobster and chapín, species that are time-consuming to prepare, but that are in high demand by seafood consumers.

For original article (in Spanish), see http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=209243132468995

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