Lionfish are one of the most harmful fish in the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean because they are a non-native species with no known predators. How can divers help? Take part in lionfish education and responsible lionfish removal projects (to see more tips, check out REEF's tips for checking the spread of lionfish in the Caribbean and Atlantic).
Lionfish have upset the ecological balance of coral reef ecosystems, and the rapid growth in the populations of these fish is alarming. With no natural enemies and an extremely high reproductive rate of 2 million eggs a year from one female, the population growth is not surprising. According to NOAA, "lionfish now occupy an extensive geographic range, and are able to survive in a range of habitats and depths. Lionfishes have now become established in Bermuda, the Bahamas, Columbia, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Turks and Caicos, and the Cayman Islands. There are also reported sightings in Belize, Haiti, U.S. Virgin Islands, Mexico, and Aruba, Curacao, and Bonaire."
The dive tourism industry is employing a number of tactics to help combat this grave problem.
Some governments (such as the U.S. and Grand Cayman) are initiating campaigns to promote the eating of lionfish, and encouraging divers and fishermen how to safely catch and handle them.
Organizations like REEF are monitoring lionfish populations and population growth patterns, and other organizations are researching species that could possibly someday be a lionfish-predator species.
Why not hunt lionfish and make dinner at the same time? Here's how:
1. Find Lionfish.
2. Stab it with a spear.
4. Eat (see recipe below).
1 lb. boneless, skinless fish, cut into ¼" cubes
1 lb. peeled, medium shrimp, cut into ¼" cubes
1 cup fresh lime juice
⅓ cup finely chopped cilantro
2 tomatoes, cored and finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
1 jalapeño, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
½ small red onion, finely chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
For the full recipe visit Saveur.