Caribbean Countries Develop a Taste for Lionfish

In “If you can’t beat them, eat them: Caribbean countries bite down on lionfish invasion,” Desmond Brown reports on how Caribbean authorities have embarked on a new strategy to deal with the invasive lionfish. He writes that countries from Bermuda to Barbados are incorporating the “beautiful menace” into their diet as the only way to decrease the numbers of lionfish.

The lionfish will be served up on platters more frequently due to its voracious appetite, which is wiping out fish stocks from Bermuda to Barbados in what scientists believe to be the worst marine invasion in history.

Matt Strong, who heads the Bermuda-based environmental charity, Groundswell, is among those who believes that the solution is to incorporate lionfish into local menus and have it targeted by commercial and recreational fishermen. “We can essentially eat them to reduce their numbers. It’s worked before — we ate the Nassau grouper in such large numbers that they no longer exist in Bermuda’s waters,” Strong said. “Every time you are at a restaurant, grocery store or buying fish from your roadside fisherman, ask for lionfish. If we build up enough demand, the fishermen will target them,” he urged islanders.

The environment official noted that every day authorities are getting more and more reports of lionfish on the country’s reefs. “They are in great numbers on our deeper reef and now they are showing up inshore in the fish nursery grounds and relentlessly eating our juvenile fish,” Strong said. “Lionfish are eating important commercial species, but even more importantly, they could potentially decimate the herbivorous fish populations such as parrotfish. This is a huge problem as the herbivores keep the algae in check. Without them, the algae outcompetes the corals and the reef, as we know it, dies.”

The lionfish explosion occurred in Bahamian waters in 2010 and was described then as “a plague of biblical proportions stalking the Bahamian economy”. Today, 97% of the reef fish endemic to the Bahamas have been eaten.

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