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Jul 1, 2013

How to catch and eat a Lionfish

The Lionfish is a threat to local fishery and up until recently, the predator fish got a bad rap. But all that is about to change because the Lionfish is on its way to becoming a hot commodity in at least fourteen markets across the United States. News Five’s Isani Cayetano was in Placencia where a tournament took place to catch the lionfish. Here is the story.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The Pacific Lionfish, formally known as Pterois, was unceremoniously introduced to our Caribbean waters a few years ago.  Since then, this ravenous hunter has directly threatened local fisheries by relentlessly pursuing and killing fingerlings of other species.  Its diet of juvenile fish has significantly reduced the numbers of snapper, jack and grouper.  With no known predator, this striped scorpion fish, is wreaking mass havoc beneath the surface.  But all of that is about to change with the establishment of an export market that will see the venomous genus utilized in the culinary world.

 

Marco Supaul

Marco Supaul, Splash Dive Center, Placencia

“They are very delicious and they are affecting our reef so we need to eradicate them to protect our local species, our domestic fish that we have.  So we need to try to get them eradicated as soon as possible and as fast as possible.”

 

To do so, anglers and divers from across southern Belize are participating in a tournament that sees them catching as many lionfish as they possible can within a given time.  Their means of doing so is nothing short of ingenious.

 

Sidney Lopez

Sidney Lopez

“This is one of the ways that is going to reduce the population of the lionfish in Belize.  There’s a guy that will start to buy lionfish from the Placencia Co-op soon.  So this is a, he will export some of this that we catch today for a trial and so we are promoting it, you know.”

 

The lionfish, adorned with toxic spines, is described as aposematic.  Its ornate beauty, conspicuous coloration and wide fans of jutting barbs advertise its ability to defend itself.  A conscious move is currently being made to introduce it on your dinner plates.

 

Jennifer Chapman, Country Coordinator, Blue Ventures

Jennifer Chapman

“Sustainable seafood is in high demand in western markets.  I would say, particularly in markets in the US [where] people pay twice the price if they know that it comes with a  sustainable stamp.  So, yes, lionfish fetches extremely high prices in American restaurants and we also have noticed that the willingness to pay for lionfish and throughout Belize it’s really quite high.  So we believe that fishermen are going to be able to receive more than what they would for the average snapper or grouper fillet and furthermore it doesn’t have a seasonal closure and a size limit.  So they can bring it in throughout the year.  They don’t have to worry about quotas.  It doesn’t have the restrictions that are in place with other fisheries because this is one which we want to over fish.”

 

And here to make the initial purchase is businessman David Johnson.  He came from Minneapolis to survey the catch that’s destined for the foreign market.

 

David Johnson, Proprietor, Traditional Fisheries

“We’re very excited about taking the first shipment here out of Belize, you know, there’s a number of cooperatives here that we’d love to do business with if we can get all of the logistics and the cold chain in order.”

 

David Johnson

Isani Cayetano

“How lucrative is the market for the exportation of lionfish to the United States?”

 

David Johnson

“The demand for seafood is constantly rising in the United States.  The supply of wild codfish is always going down, diminishing and the cost is the number one factor.  If we can get the fish up there at a reasonable cost we can sell all of it. Shipping has been an issue, we pay almost as much to ship the fish as we do to purchase the fish.  If we can get our shipping cost down we believe it can become a common fish sold in grocery stores.  Right now the majority of our clients are high-end restaurants in New York City, Las Vegas, Chicago and Houston.  But we’d love to see it become a common fish and really make a difference in the Caribbean and the region of the Caribbean.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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2 Responses for “How to catch and eat a Lionfish”

  1. Mel says:

    This fish is already being fished and eaten in Mexico and other areas of the Caribbean. Mexico is also exporting to the US. As long as you cook it properly it is safe. The documentary ‘Save the Ocean’ did the story of the lionfish in Mexico and Bahamas. They showed very interesting information. Recommend that it is worth watching.
    Good luck.

  2. sickntired says:

    From di name of dis article i mi think de mi weh tell me how to catch dis fish and if i need to fry bake or boil it. Next time name di story why catch dis fish.

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