I attended a lionfish cooking demonstration  by the Sandals Foundation in Negril, Jamaica recently while visiting Beaches Resorts.

Lionfish cooking demonstration by Sandals Foundation | Photo: Ocampo

Lionfish cooking demonstration by Sandals Foundation | Photo: Ocampo

Chef Juan, a head Chef at Beaches, presented a fish to the group and walked us through how best to prepare it. Before he did, though, he explained the dangers of the lionfish, and how the species is forever changing the Caribbean ecosystem.

Image credit: Edoen Kang on Fineartsamerica.com

Venomous Lionfish | Image credit: Kang on Fineartsamerica.com

Why are lionfish dangerous

Lionfish, formally known as Pterois, are a voracious fish native to the Indian and Pacific Oceans. With few predators, most likely due to the effectiveness of their venomous spines, they have proliferated in the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea, as well as the Pacific Ocean over the last 20 years.

Deceivingly beautiful, they are adept hunters and have been found with over 50 different species of prey in their stomachs such as mollusks, invertebrate and minuscule fish. One reason for their excellent predatory skills has to do with their bilateral swimming technique. Able to move up and down in the water column, they spread their pectoral fin and eat their prey in one single motion while altering their center of gravity. Another trait to facilitate their kills, is the blowing of water – like a jet – at their prey, which disorients them just long enough to be eaten!

So what’s the problem? The problem with lionfish is that they are feasting on incredibly important fish, like the parrotfish, to the reefs. These fish that they are demolishing eat toxic algae, which keep the coral healthy. In some estimates, lionfish consume 80% of the reef’s smaller fish in just over a month.

What can you do about it?

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