Now you may ask, what are lionfish? And why does serving them up on their menus help the environment?
In 1992, Hurricane Andrew blew through South Florida and destroyed an aquarium tank holding six of these spiny, venomous lionfish and washed them into the Atlantic Ocean. These six fish grew to an enormous population and, with no natural predators, have started to decimate the native fish along our reefs and, indirectly, harm the beautiful reefs themselves.
Scientists know that each female lionfish can produce 30,000 eggs in a single spawning and can spawn every 4 days. Is it any wonder they are taking over our oceans! Further studies have shown that in five weeks the lionfish can kill off three- quarters of the reef’s fish population. This, in turn, hurts the regional fishing and recreational diving industries as well as the all-important tourism in the Florida Keys. (By the way, this fish is also devastating the Bahamas and Caribbean Island reef systems as well.)
The Florida Keys now hold multiple fishing derbies throughout the year with cash prizes awarded for the most, largest and smallest fish caught to help eradicate this marine menace. In August 2011 the Key Largo Derby netted 675 fish and in November 2011 the Key West Derby collected 1,518 fish. Way to go!
So do your part and head to the Florida Keys and order some lionfish. It’s delicious and tastes very similar to hogfish or snapper. It is now being served at The Key Largo Conch House in Key Largo as fish tacos for lunch and as a special dinner entree.
Help the cause! Let me know of other restaurants serving lionfish so I can pass it on.