The Washington Post

Lionfish invade the Gulf...and the dinner table

Lionfish — those poisonous, spiny sea creatures most often seen in exotic aquariums —are delectable fare, says the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. And scientists from the department are encouraging fishermen, chefs and consumers to eat up.

NOAA launched the “Eat Lionfish” campaign in June as an effort to quell the rising population of the fish, which have exploded along the Gulf Coast and Atlantic coast in the last 10 years. A native of the western Pacific Ocean, the fish has no natural predators in the area and voraciously feeds on young stocks of snapper and grouper.

Dave Hutchinson’s lionfish replica may be the only one safe for local ecosystems. (Rob O'Neal/AP)

Scientists and conservationists are pushing for humans to step in and eradicate the fish from their newfound homes. And the trend is catching on, inspiring a boon of sorts for cooking the striped fish.

“This fish is delicious,” seafood distributor Sean Dimin, co-owner of Sea to Table, told Eilperin.

The Reef Environmental Education Foundation , a conservation group based in Key Largo, Fla., has published a cookbook of recipes and methods for safely preparing lionfish.

The fare has made its way to Washington as well. During the NOAA campaign launch, Washington chef and Blue Ocean Institute fellow Barton Seaver served it ceviche-style at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

You can try preparing your own lionfish with Seaver’s Lionfish Romesco Stew recipe, which allows the sweet white-fleshed fish to simmer in a flavorful sauce and can be served with boiled potatoes or rice pilaf. Follow NOAA’s instructions on handling and preparing the fish.

Cara Kelly manages the development of editorial tools and presentation for new products and user experiences. She previously worked in the Style section, following the completion of her MA in journalism at American University.


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