Dangerously Delicious Lionfish
Is Lionfish Really Poisonous?
For the past few years, myths have grown up about the arrival in Caribbean waters of a beautiful but deadly invader .
Many theories exist about how the red lionfish turned up to threaten our delicate marine ecosystem, but swift growth in numbers of this hungry reef-dweller was so concerning that in 2010 a committee of biologists published a report naming the invasion of Pterois volitans as one of the ten greatest threats to global biodiversity.
According to British journalist Andrew Purvis in his 2015 Telegraph article written from Saint Lucia: "Native to the Pacific and Indian oceans, these bewitchingly beautiful fish are highly venomous and have few predators, hence their rapid proliferation. It is estimated that lionfish can consume up to 80 per cent of an area’s small reef fish in the space of just five weeks."
So what can be done about this serious threat and is it true that the poisonous spines of the lionfish make it dangerous to eat?
Well, the answers to these questions are connected because eating is one of the best solutions to the ever-exploding numbers of lionfish - and boy do they taste great! The white, dense, flavourful fillets can be used in countless recipes including ceviche, sushi and good old battered fish and chips, as Executive Chef Billy Boyle confirms on the menus of Marigot Bay Resort.
The problem is that lionfish live on the coral reefs which means they must be caught by divers with spear guns in a labour intensive effort which makes the cost per pound quite high. The poisonous spines also have to be handled carefully and removed immediately to avoid any fear of the nasty sting that can happen if you get too close to a live one.
In the past year, Saint Lucian diving clubs and companies held a ‘lionfish derby’, catching and cooking hundreds of pounds of the tasty invaders to sell on to local consumers. The red lionfish isn’t going anywhere, so every bite helps.
Order lionfish when you find it on the menu and enjoy an environmentally deadly, but delicately delicious flavour of the sea.