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Invasive Lionfish: A Solution is to Eat Them!

Education does not end when leaving school. It is an ongoing process that certainly makes life more enjoyable. I hope you enjoy this!



Invasive Species of Fish

My husband and I were watching the local Houston nightly news some time ago. There was a segment about an invasive species of fish called lionfish. It is encroaching upon native species from the Caribbean area, up the East Coast, including the Gulf of Mexico along the Texas coastline. That drew our attention as we live not far from the Gulf of Mexico.

Pterois is the official name of this type of fish. Another name that seems very fitting because of the coloration is zebrafish. I knew of lionfish as being exotic aquarium fish and quite beautiful.

Their fins, which spread out in all directions, are toxic, and because of that, they have very few predators. Their venom can cause painful stings if humans come in touch with them. Those who are small, elderly, or have weakened immune systems are particularly vulnerable to that sting. In some cases, it can even be fatal. In others, it is an encounter that will leave behind an agonizing and most unpleasant memory.

Their usual habitat is in the Indo-Pacific regions of the world. However, they started colonizing this part of the world, whether from escaped aquarium fish or other means. They are now a problem. This colonizing fish is one more example of what happens when nonnative species, whether plants or animals, start expanding into areas not natural to them.

In the case of lionfish, if an all-out effort to keep them under control does not happen, we may eventually have our reefs destroyed. It is probably impossible to eradicate them all. The fish we count upon for sustenance will be scarce or even eliminated because these predators will eat the smaller fish upon which they prey.

The video below shows efforts to mitigate the problems caused by the rapidly increasing lionfish populations in our waters.

Longevity and Reproduction

Lionfish in open ocean waters can live good long lives, even up to 15 years of age. A female lays over a million eggs annually and can produce eggs every four days. They can live in deep waters plus shallow ones, so they are very adaptive to the environment.

Thus, the best way to start keeping them at reasonable numbers would be to create a favorite menu item and for people to start eating them. High cooking temperatures kill the toxins, so that is no problem. It would also give fishers another source of income.

Reports about the taste of the cooked fish are the following: lionfish is mild and delicious. I have since viewed a television show by the name of Bizarre Foods with the host Andrew Zimmern. He goes around the world eating some of the most unusual things, and in one episode, he was tasting lionfish. Andrew Zimmern also reported it as tasting very good.

If these fish were on a restaurant menu, knowing what I have now learned about it, I would certainly be willing to try it.

On the Menu

It is the red lionfish, in particular, that are invading the waters threatening the Caribbean and the United States. The best of all scenarios is to develop this fish as a food item. That will encourage fishers to start harvesting them for profit when chefs and even home cooks want to add that particular fish to our diets. Spearfishing is the way of capturing most of these fish.

I sincerely hope restaurateurs, seafood shops, and even the seafood areas in our local grocery stores are paying attention to this potential looming disaster. Let's all pitch in together and do what we can to lessen the danger these fish are now causing.

Learn much more about them in the video below. It is rather frightening to know how fast these fish are populating our waters and the long-term implications.

We can't fix all problems but we must fix the ones we can.

— Bono


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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2016 Peggy Woods


Robert Sacchi on August 19, 2019:

Might be for those upscale places.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on August 19, 2019:

Hi Robert,

Like you, I have yet to see any lionfish on a menu.

Robert Sacchi on August 18, 2019:

I haven't seen them on a menu yet. Then again I don't go to many seafood restaurants.

Robert Sacchi on April 23, 2019:

The rule here is look but don't touch.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 23, 2019:

Hi Aurelio,

I do agree with you that lionfish are beautiful to view.

Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on April 22, 2019:

Well, I'm not a fish eater and so would not eat this on any menu. But they are beautiful to look at and I've seen a few at aquariums.

Robert Sacchi on January 26, 2019:

Yes, although I was impressed because of the lionfish's poisonous stingers. If the poison isn't a deterrent for large predators it could even things out a bit. Other prey would be more nimble, swifter, and stand out less.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 26, 2019:

Hi Robert,

No, I did not see that video. It would not have been much of a contest given the size of a barracuda and a lionfish.

Robert Sacchi on January 25, 2019:

Did you see the youtube video of a barracuda eating a lionfish.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 25, 2019:

Hi Robert,

Now I understand what you meant. Hopefully, someday you will see lionfish on menus. I hope so also!

Robert Sacchi on January 24, 2019:

"no joy" means "I haven't seen lionfish on any menu."

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 24, 2019:

Hi Robert,

Have you seen lionfish on restaurant menus in your area? That would be a good thing to help the ocean environment if people are eating them. Not sure what you mean by writing "Still no joy on seeing them on a menu."

Robert Sacchi on January 23, 2019:

Still no joy on seeing them on a menu.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on August 23, 2018:

Hi Ethel,

They are supposed to be a mild flavored fish. I would definitely eat them should I ever see lionfish on a restaurant menu. It just has not happened yet.

Ethel Smith from Kingston-Upon-Hull on August 23, 2018:

They are very beautiful. As for eating them I am not sure. Depends how they taste I guess.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 15, 2018:

Hi Patricia,

If fish is fresh it should not taste "fishy" as you described. It definitely gets that way if it is older. We are lucky here in Houston to be so close to Gulf of Mexico waters and you should also have great options living in Florida between the Gulf and the Atlantic. I have yet to see lionfish on a menu but if it would be a good restaurant I would definitely give it a try. It is a shame that they are so invasive a species.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on July 15, 2018:

They really are beautiful and quite prolific. I am uncertain if I would try one. I am a bit funny about fish. I know you have heard this from at least one other person...if it tastes 'fishy' I do not care for it. I think I may just leave consumption of this invasive fish to others and help the environment in some other way. Angels once again are on the way ps

Robert Sacchi on March 23, 2018:

I see, anything that lives in the water.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 23, 2018:

Hi Robert,

Gulf shrimp are always good. As to seafood eaten...just about every variety imaginable can be found. Standards include salmon, tilapia, catfish, flounder, redfish, trout, halibut, lobster, crabs, clams, scallops and too many others to list.

Robert Sacchi on March 22, 2018:

Is there any fish dinner that's big along the Gulf Coast?

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 22, 2018:

Hi Robert,

That is true. Harvesting fish by hand will always be more costly. In the case of lionfish a small percentage will end up on dinner plates. I have yet to see one on a restaurant menu in the Houston area.

Robert Sacchi on March 21, 2018:

That is good in the sense of harvesting them not upsetting the ecosystem. It does mean it's unlikely the price will come down anytime soon.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 21, 2018:

Hi Robert,

I looked online and it appears that most lionfish not caught as a byproduct as in lobster and crab traps are caught by hand held nets or spearfishing. Few are caught using a hook and line. Recreational and commercial divers catch many of them.

Robert Sacchi on March 20, 2018:

Although I wonder how they capture lionfish. Are they schooling fish? The reason I ask is their might be more damage to the ecosystem catching them than the damage they cause.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 19, 2018:

Hi Robert,

I hope so! That would be one effective method to hopefully get this invasive species under control.

Robert Sacchi on March 19, 2018:

Maybe at some point they'll have on menus Lionfish California or Texas style.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 18, 2018:

Hi Robert,

Lionfish are in the Gulf of Mexico and have been spotted as long ago as in the 1980s. Texas has a long border along the Gulf of Mexico so yes...they have reached Texas.

Robert Sacchi on March 10, 2018:

Have lionfish reached Texas yet?

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 09, 2017:

Hi Robert,

Sometimes it just takes a while to gather traction. The west coast often starts fads that then spread across the nation. Hope the eating of lionfish is one of them!

Robert Sacchi on September 08, 2017:

We will see if as California goes so goes the nation or if it's a west coast fad that goes nowhere.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 08, 2017:

That is great if lionfish are making it onto restaurant menus on the west coast. Hope that trend continues all across America.

Robert Sacchi on September 07, 2017:

It seems they are serving it on the west coast.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 06, 2017:

Hi Robert,

Will look forward to restaurants in our area serving lionfish. Hope to see that someday!

Robert Sacchi on September 05, 2017:

Let's see what the price is first. The site seems to have information about lion fish entrees.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 04, 2017:

Hi Dale,

According to Andrew Zimmern it is a good and mild tasting fish. Good to know that you would be willing to try it. I would also. Perhaps if you were enjoying it your wife would want a bite of it. My husband and I often share bites from each other's plates if in a restaurant and particularly if trying new foods.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 04, 2017:

Hi Robert,

It is a shame when species that are not native are introduced into waters and then they become invasive.

Dale Anderson from The High Seas on September 04, 2017:

I have never even heard of the idea of eating lionfish so the title of this article grabbed me immediately. Yes, I think I would try it but it's a split decision here as my wife says she would definitely not try it.

Robert Sacchi on September 04, 2017:

Yes, we had a similar problem with snakehead catfish in our area.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 04, 2017:

Hi Robert,

People still purchase lionfish for aquariums. It might be that was part of the problem when some escaped into our local waters either due to accident or people releasing them on purpose not knowing the damage they would do to the environment.

Robert Sacchi on September 03, 2017:

Caribbean Volitan Lionfish - Pterois volitan - Large - $59.99. The pet place.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 03, 2017:

Hi Robert,

The main reason to start eating them is to keep them in control since they are an invasive species doing much harm to the environments in which they should never have been introduced. I will admit that they are certainly pretty.

Robert Sacchi on September 03, 2017:

In the case of lionfish they may be more valuable as pets.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 03, 2017:

Hi Robert,

That is probably true! Haha!

Robert Sacchi on September 02, 2017:

True. I remember a radio commentator saying whoever was the first person to eat a lobster much have been very hungry.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 02, 2017:

Hi Robert,

Not too surprising as there are so many creatures in the sea. There are numerous ones which would be edible but for one reason or another we eat just certain kinds in some countries. Sometimes it has to do with appearance.

In the case of lionfish anyone preparing them has to be careful in handling them with regard to those sharp spines.

Robert Sacchi on September 01, 2017:

Hopefully she does and clarifies. It is surprising there was no interest in the lionfish as food until it became an invasive species.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 01, 2017:

Hi Robert,

Perhaps she meant that they do not eat the lionfish? If she does not check back she will not see your comment regarding where these fish are in native waters.

Robert Sacchi on August 30, 2017:

Sudipa are you sure? The lionfish is native to the Indo-Pacific region.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on August 30, 2017:

Hi Sudipa,

It is a good thing if lionfish are not invading your waters.

Hiya from India on August 29, 2017:

We don't get this in India. :)

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 23, 2017:

Hi Robert,

Eating them is certainly one way to help reduce the problem of invasive species no matter if they are plant or animal.

Robert Sacchi on July 23, 2017:

I stumbled on an article on the Orange County register titled "One way to save the environment from evasive species? Eat them" by Lauren Williams. It's about eating weeds. When I saw it I thought of your Lion Fish article.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 11, 2017:

Hi Robert,

Please do that. Would be interesting to know.

Robert Sacchi on July 11, 2017:

I'll let you know if I see it somewhere.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 10, 2017:

Hi Robert,

That is good to know. Perhaps lionfish will make it on the menu someday!

Robert Sacchi on July 10, 2017:

British Airways is using Monk Fish. Asian airlines are using fish Americans would consider odd.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 10, 2017:

Hi Robert,

That would be wonderful. Somehow I doubt that an airline would have that as their first fish choice. Maybe someday!

Robert Sacchi on July 09, 2017:

I also work for an airline catering company so maybe it'll show up on our orders.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 09, 2017:

Like you I have yet to see lionfish on a restaurant menu. I will certainly be on the lookout for it!

Robert Sacchi on July 08, 2017:

Exactly, dolphin, the fish, has nothing in common with dolphin, the mammal. Haven't seen lionfish at my local restraunt yet.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 08, 2017:

Hi Robert,

From what I have learned mahi mahi is actually a different type of fish compared to the dolphin which is an air breathing mammal. So you are right in thinking that you are not eating Flipper. If you get a chance, order lionfish if it is on the menu. You will be doing a good thing for the environment!

Robert Sacchi on July 07, 2017:

My favorite is dolphin. It's served in restaurants as mahi mahi. I guess they don't want people to think the restaurant is serving Flipper.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 06, 2017:

Hi Robert,

It is interesting that fish are sometimes given other names and/or displayed in manners to entice buyers to purchase them.

Robert Sacchi on July 06, 2017:

Interesting Rajan Singh Jolly mentions a the bizzare looking fish. In the U.S. they sell goosefish, a species of anglerfish, under the name monkfish. They strategically display them without their heads. I was impressed when a local Korean supermarket has a graphic of the whole fish on display.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 06, 2017:

Hi Rajan,

I like watching that television show called Bizarre Foods but agree with you that some of what they eat which is shown on that show would be hard to swallow unless a person was starving. As to the lionfish, I would definitely try it if I saw it on a restaurant menu. It is a shame that it is such an invasive species.

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on July 05, 2017:

Though I would never be able to eat bizzare foods like insects or others I could have tried this fish a few years back. Now that I am a vegetarian it is just not possible.

All the same, I agree one must take whatever steps are needed to survive.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 04, 2016:

Hi Au fait,

Have you ever watched the TV show Bizarre Foods? People in different parts of the world have been eating insects by choice and apparently relish them. It is as normal to harvest them as it is other sources of protein. I enjoy watching that show on occasion. One can learn much about how people live as well as what they choose to eat.

C E Clark from North Texas on June 27, 2016:

Yes, I know insects are becoming more and more popular, at least to feed poor people. Always looking for a way to throw them something to eat that doesn't cost too much so the thrower won't look too stingy and Scroogish.

A very informative article and I am glad to share it again. I hope you are staying cool down there. Mid to upper 90s here everyday, and to be 100 in a few days. If the humidity would come down a little it would help I think. Take care . . .

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on June 27, 2016:

Hi Patricia,

I seriously doubt that lionfish will ever make it to a Sam's Club or a Costco. Would be great if that happened. It is nice to be able to sample foods before purchasing them. Thanks for the share. Thinking of all of you...especially your this time.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on June 24, 2016:

Hi Au fait,

Many people around the world eat insects for a food source. It is interesting how diets vary around the world. Supposedly it is a high protein food source. You are correct from what I have read in that it is only the spines of lionfish that are poisonous. So no danger in eating them in restaurants if filleted and served. Thanks for the shares. is hot down here as well. AC's working overtime!

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on June 22, 2016:

Hopefully there will be a way to stem the tide of this invasion, if you would call it that. I am not sure if I would order it without having sampled it, you know what I mean? Maybe give me a little sample like they do at Sam's Club and let me see if it is something I will enjoy.

Great hub, Peggy. Hoping all is well with you.

Once again Angels are on the way ps shared

C E Clark from North Texas on June 15, 2016:

They certainly are pretty and exotic looking. Interesting that once they're ready to cut up the poisonous spines aren't poisonous anymore. I guess it would depend on the mood I'm in as to whether I would eat them in a restaurant. At least they aren't disgusting to look at while they're alive like some sea creatures.

I've read recently that they're making something called cricket flour. Using it to make things just like with wheat flour, or adding it into processed foods so that less wheat flour is required. They just grind up the entire cricket to powder/dust and voila! I think lionfish are far more preferable to crickets prepared in any form.

Very interesting with great photos and videos as usual. Sharing with my followers and pinned to my 'Yellow & Orange IV' board on Pinterest.

Hope all is well with you and that you are surviving the awful heat and humidity. Our THI has been as high as 13 up here. Take care . . .

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 30, 2016:

Hello word55,

Glad to be of assistance with regard to informing you about lionfish. :)

Al Wordlaw from Chicago on May 30, 2016:

Um Peggy, ya learn something everyday. Very interesting. Thanks for sharing this info.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 30, 2016:

Hi The Examiner-1,

I have personally never cleaned a fish and doubt that I would start especially with a lionfish. I would buy the fillets however if I saw them in a store. It would be pretty easy to see if the fins were removed. Are you thinking the scales are poisonous? I think from what I have read that it is only the fins that could be a problem.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 30, 2016:

Hi Gordon,

You certainly understand the problem first hand from what you wrote. If I ever see lionfish on a menu, I will certainly order it.

The Examiner-1 on May 29, 2016:

I would still rather do it myself and be sure that the fins are removed entirely. Because there are some restaurants/employees these days that would not bother with that. Or at least not worry about all of the fins.

Gordon Hamilton from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom on May 29, 2016:

As both a sea fisherman and a seafood lover, I am frequently dismayed by what mankind has done to the waters of this planet. In many instances, once popular fish have been over fished to the brink of extinction, while in others, species are being allowed to flourish in waters not suited to their natural environment for so many reasons. I have never heard of lionfish before but I would certainly be willing to give eating them a try. If they are becoming problematic in terms of over-populating their non-natural environment, I agree with you that finding tasty recipes and promoting them accordingly is an excellent part solution. Hope you get to experiment in this respect and share your results :)

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 29, 2016:

Hi The Examiner-1,

Apparently the toxins are only in the fins and rarely do people eat the fins of fish. So I would not be too concerned about that.

The Examiner-1 on May 29, 2016:

In a restaurant I would not trust that it was cooked/heated long enough or high enough to delete the venom.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 29, 2016:

Hi Genna,

It does seem that way...often the most beautiful of things are toxic. Interesting. I just hope they get a handle on this problem before it is too late.

Genna East from Massachusetts, USA on May 28, 2016:

I sometimes wonder why the most beautiful creatures often the most dangerous. The fact that their toxins can be destroyed at high cooking temperatures, and they are good eating, makes this an ideal item to include on restaurant menus -- an effective way of dealing with their damaging overpopulation and evening out the odds. Very interesting hub.

Robert Sacchi on May 27, 2016:

To The Examiner-1, some things are strange but true :-)

The Examiner-1 on May 26, 2016:

This is to Robert Sacchi -- I did not know so I looked in my dictionaries and I think I found it in one of my crossword dictionaries. I could not believe it.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 26, 2016:

Hi Robert,

I think that many people are probably confused regarding the different types of dolphins. I would want no part of eating the ones like Flipper but the problem.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 25, 2016:

The Examiner-1,

You are being very careful which is a good thing. Sustainable fishing is also good as well as eating the right kind of fish. I had some delicious salmon today in a teriyaki sauce with caramelized brussels sprouts. Yum!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 25, 2016:

Hello Kaili Bisson,

As you mentioned invasive species no matter what type or where are certainly a problem. Let's hope measures will be successful to lessen the damage done by them.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 25, 2016:

The Examiner-1,

Actually it is related to this hub because lionfish were most probably first pets before they got introduced to the waters in which they are now becoming a problem.

Robert Sacchi on May 23, 2016:

Yes, I have joked around with my family about mahi mahi being dolphin. They didn't believe me until I took out my Peterson First Guide Fishes and showed them yes, mahi mahi is the name for fish known as dolphin. Not flippers relatives :-)

The Examiner-1 on May 23, 2016:

Both the tuna and the salmon which I buy are in water. I buy the ones caught in the cold upper Pacific waters with nets. I only eat about .85 oz -1 oz. per day because you are only supposed to have 6 oz. of each per week. Since I have them each day then I have to make it small servings. That is why I mix other ingredients with them.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 23, 2016:

Hi Linda,

It truly is scary that they have worked their way up this far and are threatening the health of reefs up the east coast and into the Gulf of Mexico. Hope we can get a handle on it before it is too late!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 23, 2016:

Hi Robert,

They often call fish by some other name in who knows if they start marketing lionfish what it will be called. As to mahi mahi...the type we eat is not the warm air breathing dolphins. Checking with Wikipedia, the ones we eat as mahi mahi are sea breathing ones more related to perch. So if you eat mahi are not eating Flipper. Remember that TV show? So cute!

Kaili Bisson from Canada on May 23, 2016:

These invasive species are a problem everywhere, from snakes in the Everglades to zebra mussels in the Great Lakes. I'm sure if the idea of adding these to menus caught on, they would be fished in great numbers.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 23, 2016:

Hi The Examiner-1,

You must really like tuna & salmon if you eat them daily. How many ounces of each do you allow yourself to eat? Whenever I open a can of tuna our cat comes running. She loves the tuna juice. We purchase the kind that is in water instead of oil.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 23, 2016:

Hi Robert,

Yes there are a few predators for lionfish but the problem is that they are few and far between. That is why the population of them is exploding.

The Examiner-1 on May 23, 2016:

Peggy, I know that this is not related to your Hub but I believe that I recall the lionfish used as a pet.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 23, 2016:

Hi FlourishAnyway,

That is a good idea in addition to people eating them. The pet food industry is huge. That could be another source of using lionfish. It would probably depend upon the costs involved of catching them if it would be feasible to sell it as cat food.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on May 22, 2016:

I didn't know that lionfish can now be found in North American waters. That's scary! They are certainly a beautiful fish, though. Thanks for sharing the information, Peggy.

Robert Sacchi on May 22, 2016:

It would be interesting to see if they market it under its real name. In the case of the anglerfish, they market it as monkfish. In supermarkets they display them with their heads off. Interestingly in a Lotte supermarket they have a graphic showing the anglerfish in all its uglyness. I wonder if they call dolphin "mahi mahi" because they don't want people to think they are being fed a sea mammal.

The Examiner-1 on May 22, 2016:

Peggy, I researched the tuna and salmon so that I knew how much to eat. If I remember correctly, I got the results for weekly amounts and then I divided that by 7 days. That way I could eat some of them each day. :)

Now I have the tuna for lunch in a salad which I make myself. And I have a sandwich for supper - with other items - that includes the salmon.

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