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

Missouri Town Braces for Possible Racial Unrest

Situation in Ferguson hinges on whether white police officer will be indicted for August shooting death of unarmed black teen; decision could come Monday More

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of 1930s Deadly Famine

President Poroshenko compares Soviet-era ‘genocide’ to current tactics of pro-Russia rebels in Ukraine's east More

S. Philippines Convictions Elusive 5 Years After Election-related Killings

Officials vowed to deliver justice as the nation marked the anniversary of the country's worst political massacre that left 58 dead, more than half media 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.
Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Faminei
X
Daniel Schearf
November 23, 2014 4:32 PM
During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video Law Enforcement, Activists in Ferguson Agree to Keep Peace

Authorities in Ferguson, Missouri, say they have agreed with protest leaders to maintain peace when a grand jury reaches its decision on whether to indict a white police officer in the shooting death of a black teenager. Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis, has been the scene of intermittent violence since the August 9 shooting intensified long-simmering antagonism between the police and the African-American community. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid