Ever heard of lionfish? Anyone who's spent time learning about Florida's ecosystem knows that this incredibly invasive species is responsible for decimating other fish populations, as well as coral reefs. They also reproduce rapidly and have no known natural predators. It's a recipe for disaster. Luckily, lionfish also appear in recipes for dinner. Fried until golden brown or drizzled with honey and truffle oil, lionfish are delicious, and consuming this protein is encouraged by marine scientists and sustainably minded chefs alike.
This week, you'll even be able to catch one yourself, as part of the sixth annual Lionfish Derby.
"It's just such a great option for sustainably minded people," says Stephanie Kettle, the public relations manager at Mote Marine Laboartory and Aquarium. "This weekend is a great way to showcase lionfish as an invasive problem, but also as a tasty and healthy option for seafood."
In collaboration with the Reef Environmental Education Foundation, the weekend kicks off with a captain's meeting on Friday, July 12, followed by lionfish hunting in the Gulf on Saturday, July 13, and an official weigh-in on Sunday, July 14. Participants can form a team and partake in hunting with other marine scientists from Mote. The general public is also invited to watch the weigh-ins on Sunday. Local chefs will also be cooking up the catch at a tasting event this weekend, an event that has already sold out. "It's fun, tasty and a good cause," Kettle says. And if you miss out this weekend, there's still hope. "There's always next year," she says.
Register to participate in hunting for this year's derby here.