Invasion of the Lionfish

Voracious, venomous lionfish are the first exotic species to invade coral reefs. Now divers, fishermen—and cooks—are fighting back

Unknown in the Americas 30 years ago, lionfish have multiplied at a rate that is almost unheard of in marine history. (Visuals Unlimited / Corbis)

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At the request of the Bahamas National Trust, Maillis and other members of his family have led five lionfish-frying workshops on various Bahamian islands. He hopes to make the workshop a regular event all over the Caribbean. And the Trust has campaigned to get restaurants to fry up fresh lionfish for customers.

In the western end of Nassau, the capital city of the Bahamas, the August Moon Restaurant and Café has been serving lionfish since 2007. Alexander Maillis' aunt, Alexandra Maillis Lynch, is the owner and chef. She serves lionfish tempura once every two months, whenever she can convince fishermen to supply it to her. She says she offers anywhere between fifteen and twenty dollars a pound for the exotic specialty, nearly twice as much as she pays for the more common grouper.

Sometimes, she has to eat the lionfish in front of hesitant guests, who need proof that the poison has been neutralized. In spite of visitor nervousness, she always sells out of lionfish, and no one ever complains.

"It's one of the most delicious fish I've ever eaten," says Lynch, who describes the flavor as "delicate." Both Gape and Akins, who have tried the lionfish, agree that it's unexpectedly good. Others have compared the lionfish's texture to that of grouper and hogfish.

Pterois volitans may be the one of the ocean's most voracious predators, but on land, Homo sapiens might have it beat.

About Anika Gupta
Anika Gupta

Anika Gupta’s writing has appeared in India and the United States, including in Business Today magazine, where she served as its first digital content editor, the Hindustan Times newspaper and Smithsonian magazine. Currently, she is a Master's student at MIT, where she studies user-generated content and mainstream media culture. She's also a science writer, media blogger, and essayist.

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