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How to conquer the invasive lionfish? Saute it.
M.J. Gimbar, fishmonger at BlackSalt restaurant and market in the Palisades, said he would consider buying the fish at some point, but Johnson is not yet in a position to import it on a large, commercial scale.
"At this point no, it's not an option, but it could be an option three months from now," Gimbar said. At $24 per pound, lionfish would be priced comparably to tilefish and sturgeon, he added.
Johnson is talking to fishermen all the way down to Belize and says he hopes this new fishery will help compensate for the fact that other ones, such as those for conch, lobster and grouper, are closed four months a year to curb overfishing. "With lionfish, the more hunting, the better," he said.
In the meantime, scientists such as Morris are studying how the species is affecting the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, and researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey are tracking it through their Non-Indigenous Aquatic Species Database. The situation is so serious that a group of scientists just published a journal article identifying lionfish as one of the top 15 threats to biodiversity worldwide.
"This is a big deal," Morris said.
The fish has also emerged as an underground gourmet delicacy: There are at least three Facebook groups devoted to the cause, including "I Spear Lionfish," "Lionfish Derby" and "Eat the Lionfish."
And although filleting a fish bristling with venomous spikes poses a challenge, once it's filleted, lionfish is easy to prepare. I sliced it into one-inch strips, cooked it in Seaver's version of a romesco sauce -- fire-roasted vegetables pureed with almonds and olive oil -- and served it over Israeli couscous for my family and friends.
At the end of the meal, the consensus was clear: Eradication never tasted so sweet.