Before we get into the nitty-gritty, here are the basic facts about Lionfish:
Lionfish belong to the Scorpion fish family and are ambush predators (they sit and wait, which also means that they will not generally swim away from you and are relatively easy to shoot).
There are two reported species of lionfish; of which one, the red lionfish (Pterois volitans, in case you were itching to know the scientific name) was first reported in November 2011 in Barbadian waters. We were pretty much doomed, as we had invasions coming to our waters from both the North and the South. It was only a matter of time, as there was no stopping the lionfish movements in the currents.
Why are we so worried about these beauties?
- They become sexually mature in less than a year.
- They reproduce every 4 days throughout the year and a female can spawn over 2 million eggs/year (that’s a lot of babies!).
- They have little to no natural predators in the sea (but have been found in the stomachs of Snapper and Grouper). Humans are their main predator; usually a bad thing when humans are another species’ main predator, but in this case, it’s actually a great thing.
- These species have been known to consume up to 70 species of fish, many of which are recreationally and commercially important. Without these fish, the already poor state of our reefs will suffer further which has implications for fisheries and tourism and thus, you! On the flip side, these species can create greater tourism as divers love to see their beauty in their natural habitat.
- They possess venomous spines which can cause stings and reactions in humans, so take care when handling and cooking. Yes, we encourage you to eat them; many fishers and locals say they taste ‘sweet fuh days’, so it’s high time to get them on our menus and serve them as a delicacy like other places in the world
So a quick recap:
High numbers of lionfish = less fish for fishermen = less local fish for you = lower food security = higher import bills = even unhealthier reefs = lower tourism = BAD!
(Hopefully, you get the gist!)
In summary, we need to act to ensure balance in the marine ecosystem.
Here’s what you can do to help:
Check out Lionfish Barbados and read about the island’s first Lionfish Derby, which was held mid-2014. It includes talks to increase education and awareness on handling and cooking, how to make your own catching unit, followed by a cook-off and tasting!
Some people do not agree with this large-scale culling event, but in the case of the invasive lionfish, often this is the most successful solution before it is too late (would love another opinion if you feel differently!)
Many of the island’s dive shops, fishers and locals have already been playing their part by killing the fish and either leaving them on the reefs or cutting off the spines and cooking them up on return to land. We urge you to do the same!
So if you see a lionfish out swimming or diving, enjoy their beauty, take a photo and if you have the correct materials, the best course of action is to kill the fish and leave it on the reef. However, wouldn’t it be great to have lionfish on many of the restaurant menus? Why not try cooking it too?