News / USA

Eating to Beat Invasive Lionfish

Conservationists use knife and fork to save reefs

Lionfish are taking over coral reefs in the Caribbean and Atlantic. Here, Lad Akins catches one.
Lionfish are taking over coral reefs in the Caribbean and Atlantic. Here, Lad Akins catches one.

Multimedia

Audio

In the waters of the Caribbean Sea, a voracious invasive species called the lionfish is threatening to overtake the reefs.

Conservation groups are fighting back with an unusual approach. "Eat them to beat them," is their slogan, and they're urging chefs and diners to enjoy the unwelcome fish as a tasty delicacy.

Invasive presence

The lionfish is native to the Indian and Western Pacific Oceans. It came to the United States as a popular aquarium fish. But in the past decade, lionfish released into the wild have invaded coral reefs in the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean.

Lionfish pose a serious threat to commercially valuable fish like snapper and grouper.
Lionfish pose a serious threat to commercially valuable fish like snapper and grouper.

These ravenous fish eat everything in their path, says Lad Akins, with the marine conservation group Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF).

"They eat other fish, crustaceans, mollusks, and octopus. Almost anything that moves and will go into that mouth, even up to half their own body size, is potential prey."

Lionfish populations have exploded in the past few years. They're eating so much that they're pushing out native reef species. The U.S. oceans agency, NOAA, says they pose a serious threat to commercially valuable fish like snapper and grouper, and put added stress on coral reef ecosystems that are already under pressure from pollution and climate change.

Tasty predators

Experts want to turn the tables on this hungry predator.

NOAA has launched the "Eat Lionfish" campaign and is working to put the invasive fish on the menu at top U.S. restaurants.

Beer-battered Lionfish puffs
Beer-battered Lionfish puffs

"The flesh is actually very light and delicate," Akins says. "It's not strong flavored. So you can season it many different ways. It's a great eating fish."

Akins says REEF is putting together a lionfish cookbook, due out this summer.

But he cautions that lionfish may be a pricey delicacy. "It's not like a traditional fishery where you can collect them in a large net," he says. Lionfish are caught by labor-intensive spearfishing.

"It's a bit expensive to get the fish," he says. "But it's worth it because they're so good eating. I think we're going to see a market develop for lionfish as a delicacy. And people are going to pay a premium for it."

Promoting unsustainable fishing

At a time when environmental groups are warning about over-fishing, it's unusual for a conservation group to encourage fishers to decimate a species. But Akins says this is one fishery that should not be sustainable.

"We don't want to create a fishery that protects this fish and maintains stocks of this fish for the restaurants," he says. "The goal is, eat them to beat them, and eat them until they're gone."

But invasive species expert Dan Simberloff at the University of Tennessee is skeptical.

"It's a foolish idea, and it won't work," he says. There's a long history of people suggesting culinary control of invasive species, "And historically, these really haven't worked at all."

For example, an invasive South American rodent called the nutria is destroying wetlands across the southeastern United States. Famous New Orleans chefs have come up with recipes for cooking nutria, but that's done nothing to control the pest. Simberloff says it's just too hard to get people to eat a new food.

But Akins says lionfish already is on the menu in some restaurants in the Caribbean. And he says people in the United States will be willing to pay for it, not only because a cooked lionfish tastes good, but also because it's good for the reefs.

You May Like

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land In French Port

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching 'Fortress Europe' More

Video Westgate Mall Attack Survivors Confront Painful Memories

On anniversary of terror attack, survivors discuss how they have coped with trauma they experienced that day More

New Hints That Dark Matter Exists

New evidence from International Space Station hints at existence of dark matter and dark energy More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calaisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 19, 2014 5:04 PM
The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video CERN Accelerator Back in Business

The long upgrade of the Large Hadron Collider is over. The scientific instrument responsible for the discovery of the Higgs boson -- the so-called "God particle" -- is being brought up to speed in time for this month's 60th anniversary of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym CERN. Physicists hope the accelerator will help them uncover more secrets about the origins of the universe. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid