Notes from the Island Fishmonger

| July 1, 2016

LIONFISH IS DELISH!

The month of July is feeling alot like a Lionfish awareness month. We don’t usually hear that much about these cool looking animals with red and white zebra stripes. We don’t see them in the display cases of many fish markets and they are never caught by fisherman as these fish can’t be baited and are only caught by spear-fishermen so they do not get alot of press. Well here is something we all need to know…we want these fish out of our waters!

lionfish smileLionfish pose no threat in their natural habitat but Florida is not their natural habitat. This fish is a serious danger to our marine eco system. They are destroying our coral reefs and with no natural predator of their own (because of their venomous spines) they are eating everything in sight. They reproduce in alarming numbers and because of these facts the Lionfish are now attracting attention. Lionfish have invaded the Gulf of Mexico, southern Atlantic and Caribbean so heavily that the fish populations they prey upon have fallen by 90%. Some additional Lionfish facts are:

  • They inhabit all marine habitat types and depths down to 1,000 feet.
  • Dense Lionfish populations can consume more than 460,000 prey fish per acre per year.
  • They sexually mature in less than a year and are able to reproduce every 4 days throughout the year. A single fish can produce 2 million eggs a year. They can live for decades and reach sizes exceeding 19” and they can reach densities of more than 200 adults per acre.
  • Due to their protective venomous spines, no fish wants to tangle with them…even the sharks!
  • Despite rumors that this fish is poisonous to humans, the fact is that they are not. After the venomous spine tips are removed, this fish is delish and considered a delicacy.

What can we do? For starters we eat the enemy & leave no Lionfish behind! Scuba divers and spear-fishermen must safely capture and remove the Lionfish from the Gulf and we must eat them! Restaurant owners and chefs should have this fish on their menus and fish markets need to buy and sell these fish to their consumers. Awareness is the name of the game. The more you know about this fish, the more youlionfish will want it out of the water and into your belly. Lionfish truly is a delicious dish. It has a white flaky texture and sweet flavor that surprises many consumers when served from sea to plate. Because it yields a small fillet, I recommend that you eat this whole tempura style. If you’re cooking it at home, make sure your fish monger cleans the fish and removes the venomous tips from the spiny pectoral fins.

Sarasota Lionfish Derby is the weekend of July 8th-10th. The weekend kicks off with a Lionfish dinner at the Big Water Fish Market on Friday night, July 8th from 6pm-9pm. Allie ElHage (designer of the Zookeeper which is a device used for the containment of speared Lionfish) will be our guest speaker on that night to help create awareness and share his knowledge on the Lionfish. In addition, you will also receive a “Be the Predator” brochure provided to us from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to go along with your Lionfish meal.

The Derby will be based at Mote Marine Laboratory with hunting in the Gulf on July 9th and the weigh in will be at Mote Marine Laboratory on July 10th. For more information about the Lionfish Derby you can go to mote.org/lionfishderby, contact Allie ElHage at zookeepericu@gmail.com or to become a sponsor or make a donation to this event please contact Kate at (941)388-4441 ext. 393 or email her at Kknepper@mote.org. To find out more about our Lionfish dinners at Big Water Fish Market please call 941-554-8101.

Live well, eat fish!
Scott

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