Can we eat enough lionfish to keep them from damaging native species and marine ecosystems? Probably not.
But it won’t hurt to try.
Last month, the first “Celebrity Chef Lionfish Challenge” was presented during the annual SeaWeb Seafood Summit, the world’s premier conference on sustainable seafood. Co-hosted by SeaWeb and National Marine Sanctuary Foundation (NMSF), the Challenge brought together seven top regional chefs to prepare their signature lionfish dishes.
Some of the recipes that they came up with include lionfish succotash, lionfish wreckdriver style, and lionfish with crawfish sauce piquant and creole cream cheese grits. Check out all of them here.
According to NMSF, “While visually stunning, the lionfish is an invasive species plaguing marine ecosystems in U.S. waters, particularly the southeast Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean.
“As conventional population reduction methods have proven unsuccessful, organizations are innovating. The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation and SeaWeb hope a secret weapon – America’s chefs – will spread the word that lionfish are malicious but delicious.”
Lionfish were first confirmed in U.S. waters in the 1980s and, with few natural predators and a fast breeding cycle, their presence is now permanent. They have had significant impact in the Flower Garden Banks, Florida Keys, and Gray’s Reef national marine sanctuaries.
Reduction of the lionfish population is a priority throughout the ocean community and, among their many functions and services, the sanctuaries serve as sentinel sites for control efforts. NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries has just released its Lionfish Response Plan. At Flower Garden Banks, NMSF-funded expeditions have removed quantities of the predators and provided data used to improve population control techniques.