Conservationists want you to eat more lionfish. Wait, what?

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PRI (Public Radio International) recently published an article based on an interview, “Fighting an Invasive Species by Adding It to the Menu,” which was aired on Science Friday. (The segment was written by Julia Franz and produced by Katie Hiler.) One point that caught my eye is that I suppose I will finally be able to taste lionfish right here in New York (after having searched for it high and low in several Caribbean locales). The article starts out by announcing that it is readily available in downtown Manhattan at a restaurant called Norman’s Cay. Lionfish, anyone? Read full article and listen to the interview at PRI.

With its arsenal of spiny, venom-tipped fin rays, the lionfish is not a typical (or easy) ingredient in your fish tacos. But at Norman’s Cay, a restaurant in downtown Manhattan, lionfish comes grilled or fried — and its mild white meat is starting to show up in other restaurants in Florida and New York.

[. . .] As part of an effort to curb lionfish, conservationists and foodies alike are trying to get us to eat more of it. Results have been mixed, but not for the reasons you might think.

“They are a challenge to catch,” says Maia McGuire, an agent with the Florida Sea Grant Extension, one of the organizations trying to get rid of lionfish in coastal waters. “They like to be on reef areas or areas with structure, and they actually like being under ledges a lot of the time — so it’s not a great place to drag a net. They don’t really take a hook very well.” [. . .] According to McGuire, most lionfish are caught by divers armed with spear guns or nets. “So it’s pretty labor-intensive fishery,” she says.

McGuire isn’t sure who first came up with the idea to promote lionfish as a tasty, environmentally friendly food. But she suspects that with the invasion of lionfish, someone — or some people — wondered what could be done with the newly abundant fish.

“So folks tried them, and they found that they’re actually a very tasty fish,” she surmises. “It’s a mild white fish and they take seasoning well, chefs like working with them, so it kind of seemed like the perfect solution.”

Perfect, that is — if conservationists can figure out a better way to catch them. McGuire says several teams are trying to design a perfect trap for lionfish, which have been found both in deep and shallow waters. As of now, she admits, the trap is still a work in progress. [. . .] Until then, lionfish remains a delicacy caught by hand. But in this case, conservationists are begging you to eat your fill.

For full article, see http://www.pri.org/stories/2016-11-29/conservationists-want-you-eat-more-fish-wait-what

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