In their non-native waters of the Atlantic, Lionfish are causing a big problem, eating them is actually a way to help fight the destruction of the oceanic ecosystem!
As a meat eater, and especially as someone who likes seafood, it is not uncommon to be told, [scolded] about how I am killing the planet and decimating fish populations. I try to be ethical and health conscious, but I like meat and seafood! There is one species of fish that we can all enjoy without the need to feel guilty about our environmental impact: lionfish.
This is not new, these psychedelic fish monsters have been causing serious problems in U.S. waters, messing with local ecosystems. None of the methods that are usually employed to reduce populations has worked well on them, leaving them to flourish in waters with no natural predators. They are pretty hard to catch, too! They aggressively eat anything they can put their mouths around with huge appetites, reducing native fish populations by about 70%. There are also reports that lionfish are eating to the point of obesity.
Reading more about lionfish, brought me to picture them as sort of the ninja of the sea. Look: they’re super deadly, with cat-like speed and reflexes, move in darkness (the caves they live in), have 18 poisonous darts (well, spikes), and they are nearly impossible to catch with hooks and nets. Practically, the only way to catch them is by spearing them. Somehow, I don’t feel so bad eating a fish that someone had to actually spear.
There are some different theories on how the lionfish got started on their mission of destruction. Most people believe that they were dumped by aquarium owners who no longer wanted them. Having no natural predators, they could populate extremely quick. (Just one female can produce about a million eggs per year.)
Please remember this when you see lionfish on a restaurant menu or a market selling them and you may feel good about making the choice to eat it. Lionfish are a known delicacy around the world, with super high Omega-3s and low in mercury. As for the poisonous spikes, no need to fear: the venom is neutralized by the cooking process. Anyone who would give you grief for eating lionfish is clearly not up to their facts. Indulge, my friends!
Lionfish can be fried whole or by fillet. It can even be prepared as sashimi, or rolled into sushi — the only ways I have had it. It is tasty! Here are some more photos of lionfish, the ethical seafood: