Lionfish on the menu

Here are three stories that really deserve to be shared together, all about the catching and eating of our friend, the lionfish.

First, is this article about a lionfish derby Dr Craig Layman, AKA The Abaco Scientist, organized with Friends of the Environment on Abaco, Bahamas on May 27, 2011. In one day, 15 boats caught 2,957 lionfish! Amazing. Not only the sheer number of fish this small flotilla of do-gooders caught but how many were out there to get! Remember, Abaco is one of the fishiest places in the Caribbean. It isn’t pristine, but there are sizable grouper, lots of sharks, etc. These invaders are literally taking over the Caribbean. Crazy stuff.

Second, is some news about the lionfish ciguatera scare. The findings are somewhat inconclusive, but at this point, it seems the scare was overblown. Lionfish, like virtually all carnivorous fish, can have the ciguatera toxin in their tissue via bioaccumulation. However, there are no known instances of a human getting ciguatera poisoning from eating lionfish. The simple precaution is not to eat lionfish – or any fish – from a known ciguatera hotspot.

Bradley Johnson, research officer at the Department of Environment, said several species of fish are likely to have ciguatera, such as big groupers, snappers, Cavalli jack and barracuda.

“I am not aware of any lionfish cases of ciguatera poisoning here,” Mr. Johnson said.

“I’m not saying there’s no risk. There are risks with all species of fish. We have not had any evidence of it happening with lionfish so far.

“What we feel comfortable saying is [lionfish] statistically are just as likely to give you ciguatera as any other larger species of fish around, but that being said, we have not had any reports of it,” he said.

The ciguatera toxin is produced by dinoflagellates that stick to coral, algae and seaweed in tropical waters where they are eaten by herbivorous fish that in turn are eaten by larger carnivorous fish. The toxins accumulate as they move up the food chain within bigger fish. Ciguatoxin is heat-resistent so cooking does not get rid of the toxin.

People with ciguatera poisoning usually experience a numbness and tingling of the lips and tongue, which may spread to the extremities, as well as nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, joint and muscle pain, headache, reversal of sensation of hot and cold, acute sensitivity to temperature extremes, vertigo, irregular heartbeat and reduced blood pressure. Gastrointestinal symptoms may develop within two hours following consumption of toxic fish while neurological and cardiovascular symptoms will usually emerge within six hours of eating the fish. The ciguatera toxin is not related to the venomous toxins in a lionfish’s spines.

Third, is this new lionfish cookbook, available on Amazon, co-authored by our friend Lad Akins of REEF (one of the most effective marine NGOs), who recently showed us how to fillet lionfish.

Amazon’s description: This book provides a unique blend of tantalizing recipes, background on the lionfish invasion and its impacts, and information on how to effectively catch, handle and prepare the fish. Although it is highly unlikely that lionfish will ever be eradicated from their invaded range, it is very possible that local populations can be controlled and their impacts minimized simply by adding it to the menu. While many traditional native seafood species are under immense fishing pressure and in need of protection, lionfish are a tasty, nutritious and environmentally conscious seafod choice. There is simply no “greener” fish to eat!

So far the book has two reviews, both 5 stars!

See all of our lionfish coverage including videos and tattoos here

Leave a Reply