Eat Lionfish to Save the Coral Reef

If you've never heard of lionfish before, this is a very important lesson, so we beg you to please learn about this massive problem in the Caribbean. But the best part about this lesson is that, at the end, we'll encourage you to eat lionfish to save the coral reef.

What are lionfish?

Lionfish are a stunning species of fish that - you guessed it - have an appearance resembling a lion's mane. Their beautiful tendrils float happily in the water like a mermaid's hair. But these visually stunning fish are actually an aggressive invasive species doing unbelievable damage to the Caribbean ecosystem.

Lionfish are not native to the Caribbean - nor to the Atlantic Ocean at large. They are native to the Pacific Ocean and are only in the Caribbean following an accident. It's believed that many of them were released into the ocean during a storm that hit Florida, breaking their tank and allowing them into open water.

The furiously frustrating thing about lionfish is that they reproduce at an incredibly quick rate. So basically as soon as they were released into the Caribbean, they became a major problem. This compounds the problem of lionfish having no natural predator in the Caribbean, since they are not native to the area. They reproduce often and abundantly, and then there is nothing to slow their growth.

Another major problem with lionfish is that they prey on juvenile fish. This slows the natural growth of endemic populations in the Caribbean.

Yet another major issue with lionfish is that they are venomous. Beyond their pretty tendrils dancing in the current, lionfish have multiple spines filled with venom ready to piece any attacker. Those spines are a defense mechanism, which deters local populations from preying upon these newcomers at all.

That leaves us, humans. We were the cause of the invasion, so now it's up to us to try to stop it. Scuba divers in the Bay Islands have done an admirable job hunting lionfish for years. That will have to continue to ensure the safety and health of our beautiful coral reefs.

How can you help?

If you are a diver, talk to your dive shop about hunting lionfish while you're here. In some areas of the Bay Islands, there are so many hunters that you may not even see many lionfish during your dives. In other locations, you'll see so many you could feast for days.

And that brings us to our next point: Lionfish are delicious. You should eat lionfish to save the coral reef. If you catch them yourself, always remember that the venomous spines should be immediately removed before handling the fish any further. If you aren't the hunting type but would still like to do your part to help save the reef, feel free to eat these light white fish in abundance!

You'll find lionfish on many menus throughout the islands, in everything from ceviche, fish tacos, to soups, to traditional fish platters with rice and beans. However they come, you're sure to enjoy them both for taste and for knowing you're helping to save the reef.

Buen provecho!

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