If You Can't Beat 'em, Eat 'em

If You Can't Beat 'em, Eat 'em

REEF (Reef Environmental Education Foundation), a conservation group seeking to preserve marine ecosystems, has come up with a novel strategy for combating lionfish, an invasive species that is devastating marine life around Florida's coastal reefs. Its solution? The Lionfish Cookbook, which contains 45 mouth-watering recipes and preparation tips for menuing the spiny creature (lionfish get their name from the “mane” of venomous spines that frame their heads).

The hunter becomes the hunted, or at least so REEF hopes.

Native to the Pacific and Indian Oceans, lionfish probably were introduced into Florida waters in 1992 when Hurricane Andrew broke open an aquarium exhibit on Miami's waterfront. With few natural predators and plenty of easy prey, the species has since thrived and multiplied to the point that they are now considered among the top threats to biodiversity worldwide by some scientists.

So it's time to make the lionfish see how the other half of the food chain lives, reason REEF conservationists. They hope that their culinary foray can build a market for the lionfish dish.

Despite its poisonous spines, lionfish is readily edible because the poison is confined to the spines, so the meat is safe to eat, says REEF. In fact, “lionfish have a delicate, mild-flavored, white meat and are considered a delicacy,” according to the organization's news release announcing the cookbook.

Now, what REEF needs is a catchy name for the fish. Let's face it, people are reluctant to eat something called “lionfish,” no matter how delicate and mild-flavored it may be.

REEF might take a lesson from the Patagonian toothfish, which nobody wanted to eat either until some genius renamed it Chilean Sea Bass.

So how about “Mane Dish Fish”?