Jamaica Lionfish Invasion Response: Eat Them!


Lionfish With Venomous Spines

Fish and Jamaicans go together. We love our fish, bad bad. Lionfish is a whole nother story though, right up there with Jamaica’s Ackee. Before today, I didn’t know what the heck was a lionfish until I saw a photo and went Oooohh. Isn’t that poisonous? Well not entirely and so the story goes…

Recently, there has been increasing awareness about the dwindling fish population in Jamaica due to overfishing. Fishermen and women are being sensitized and trained to practice safer fishing methods. They are also being encouraged to get on board with environmental conservation education, to become teachers and enforcers of laws and good practices toward Jamaica’s coral reefs and fish populations.

The fish population issue is the subject of our discussion today. And the star of our story, the lionfish. Now apart from seeing that fish in a fish tank and hearing that spines in its fins, face and tail are venomous; it never occurred to me that they are edible. So today, I saw a story at Go-Jamaica announcing that the Ministry of Agriculture is encouraging people to eat the them all. That they are safe to eat came as a real surprise to me.

Apparently the lionfish, a native of the Indian and Pacific waters has found its way to Caribbean Waters where there is no serious threat to its life. The only other fish that readily tackles this one is the Grouper and we don’t have a large enough population for them to become a significant threat to the lionfish.

Thus, having found such favourable waters, the spiny beauty’s population has been enjoying an explosive growth while at the same time killing off the local fish populations and further destroying the regions coral reefs. As far back as 2006 a report from the NOAA stated that, “…non-native lionfish  populations will continue to grow and cannot be eliminated practically using conventional methods.”

Jamaica’s Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries Department is advocating “aggressive” fishing of this specie of fish. In other words, there is open war declared on the lionfish. It is no weak adversary though. According to the report, they can consume up to 20 small fish in as little as 30 minutes. Even more bad news is that they feed on crustaceans such as lobster. Not good. Lobster is one of Jamaica’s fishing industry large income earners.

Today’s news article reported that the Ministry of Agriculture is increasing its budget to promote awareness of this lionfish invasion. In addition, they are promoting social competitions like cook-offs that will provide a space for large consumption of the fish. I can see a “Lionfish Festival” similar to the Jerk Festival brewing!! Already, one local resort hosted a competition for the catching of lionfish and hosted a cook-off for guests to feast on the deadly beauties. Admit it..they are pretty aren’t they?

Anyway, I sent the story to a friend who immediately forwarded a couple of links to tell me that I’m way behind on this issue. Two great sites she shared are listed below. You may check them out. I’m not very adventurous with food. But I admit, I love fish so am intrigued. I’m working up the courage and I’ll be sure to share when I get there and actually taste it. I believe I’ll prepare the fish myself though.

Recipes for the lionfish are in abundance at Lionfish Hunters share them with other Lionfish enthusiasts.

While Kill The Lionfish pretty much says what the Ministry of Agriculture is saying. I do love their slogan – “catch, kill, eat, repeat…” so funny.

Leave your lionfish story!

Photo Credits: These lionfish photos are compliments of NOAA.