Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Eat a Lionfish - Save a Reef!

Last weekend I went fishing with my friends from Reward Fishing Fleet out of Miami Beach Marina in South Beach.We usually catch a mixed bag that typically includes snapper, grouper, jacks and mackerel, as well as bonita, skipjack and blackfin tuna, sailfish, mahi mahi, sailfish and the occassional wahoo, as well as jacks, runners, grunts, porgies, yellow tails and reef fish of all descriptions.

I was fishing for mutton snapper (and caught two - see above) with a nine foot leader and a four ounce sinker  when I felt a small tug on my line.
When I reeled it in, I discovered that I had caught my first Lionfish, an invasive species from the Indo-Pacific with venomous spines which is decimating the reefs of South Florida.

This lionfish was introduced to South Florida waters more than 20 years ago by hobbyists who were appalled to discover that the colorful aquarium fish was a voracious predator which would quickly devour all the smaller fish in their aquariums.
As far as we can tell, the adult lionfish - which averages about 1 lb, though some species can get much larger, has no natural predators in South Florida waters.
Until now.
In an effort to protect our reefs, which are already under enormous pressure from over fishing, other invasive species, global warming and environmental degradation, state and federal regulators are now encouraging divers and anglers to catch and kill as many lionfish as they can.
So I asked the captain to clip the spines (where the toxins are located) and fillet the fish for me, which he did - very carefully.

To my delight I discovered that lionfish fillets are delicious, similar to grouper, and that it makes a great sashimi and seviche.
So now I am going to try to target lionfish, and help rid the reefs of these tasty pests.
A word of warning. The sting of a lionfish is very painful and can be quite dangerous. The toxin is still active even when the fish is dead, so be very careful when you clean the fish. You will find this website - Lionfish Hunter - full of safety tips and techniques - and some very nice recipes.

You may also enjoy these videos on how to clean a lionfish which I found on You Tube on how to clean and detoxify a lionfish.

My recipe for Lionfish Seviche.

Catch, clean and chop 1 lb of lionfish fillets into 1/4 inch pieces,
Cover with fresh lime juice
Add garlic, cilantro, red onions and hot peppers to taste.
Marinate and chill for about one hour.

Serve with salsa - or over a lime sorbet or citrus granita.