Thursday, November 08, 2012

A fish to fish out

kw: invasive species, lionfish, sashimi

This critter, the Lionfish, is a popular, if risky, denizen of many a saltwater aquarium. A half dozen of these were released into Florida waters from a homeowner's tank by Hurricane Andrew twenty years ago, and have become a very destructive pest. Native to the Pacific, they have been enjoying a rolling feast of Caribbean sea life, which has yet to evolve the avoidance behaviors needed to survive lionfish predation.

The lionfish is one of the most venomous fish, sharing these "honors" with the stonefish and toadfish and a few others that have poison-loaded spines. The flesh itself is not poisonous, however, so these are good eating, though they are rather small; the largest seldom exceed 16 inches (40 cm) in length. I don't know if they can be caught by hook, but they are a popular target of spear fishers. This opens a door to at least some reduction in their numbers: Lionfish Sashimi. The human appetite for fish has led to the near extermination of cod, shad and other food fish. Now let's do some good with this tendency! Eat more Lionfish.

Here is a serving option found at Kuriya Dining in Singapore. One reviewer noted that the fish is also served poached or grilled. I understand that a few chefs (not necessarily at Kuriya) are able to utilize just a smidgen of the venom, to give it a bit of "bite", similar to Fugu. I'd prefer it venom-free myself. I don't eat for thrills, but for the taste.

However, the Singapore lionfish aren't invasive there. So if you don't want to spend $2,000 in airfare to satisfy your Lionfish craving, and wish to do some good where it matters, here are a few more "local" options:
I thought I would find more places serving lionfish. Because they are a bit hard to handle safely, they are not a low-cost menu item. But considering what people pay to eat bluefin tuna sashimi (and get their daily dose of mercury along with it), that ought not hold back dedicated diners. Go to your local fish restaurant or sushi bar and ask them to add lionfish to the menu.

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