With its dark red and black stripes, spotted fins and long venomous black spikes, the lionfish seems better suited for horror films than consumption. But lionfish fritters and filets may be on American tables soon.
An invasive species, the lionfish is devastating reef fish populations along the Florida coast and into the Caribbean. Now, an increasing number of environmentalists, consumer groups and scientists are seriously testing a novel solution to control it and other aquatic invasive species — one that would also takes pressure off depleted ocean fish stocks: they want Americans to step up to their plates and start eating invasive critters in large numbers.
“Humans are the most ubiquitous predators on earth,” said Philip Kramer, director of the Caribbean program for the Nature Conservancy. “Instead of eating something like shark fin soup, why not eat a species that is causing harm, and with your meal make a positive contribution?”
Invasive species have become a vexing problem in the United States, with population explosions of Asian carp clogging the Mississippi River and European green crabs mobbing the coasts. With few natural predators in North America, such fast-breeding species have thrived in American waters, eating native creatures and out-competing them for food and habitats.
While most invasive species are not commonly regarded as edible food, that is mostly a matter of marketing, experts say.
What about you — could you see yourself eating invasive critters as a way to curb overfishing and fish depletion?