The Major Added Benefit Of Eating This Fish

Carnivores and pescetarians of the world, this article is for you: Normally, you are told that your diet choices are decimating fish populations and killing the planet, but there is one species of fish that you should look out for and enjoy with absolute relish: the lionfish.
Photo: Gerard Lacz/REX USA.
Though it's not a new phenomenon, apparently these crazy looking creatures are wreaking some serious havoc in U.S. waters and putting pressure on local ecosystems, and none of the traditional population reduction techniques have proven successful. Lionfish have been able to proliferate because they have no natural predators in our waters and are extremely hard to catch. Also, these guys are aggressive — they can reduce native fish populations by about 70%. They eat anything they can put their mouths around, and their appetites are voracious. In fact, Slate reports that lionfish are eating to the point of obesity.

The more I read about lionfish, the more I began to think of them as the ninjas of the fish world. I know it sounds crazy, but hear me out: They’re super deadly, they have cat-like speed and reflexes, they have 18 poisonous swords (okay, not swords, but spikes), they live in dark caves, and they are almost impossible to catch with hooks and nets — you have to spear them to kill them. (Then again, maybe I just have ninjas on the brain.)

How did lionfish get here? Well, theories differ, but many believe that they were dumped into the ocean by aquariums that no longer wanted to house them. Lionfish were able to populate with tremendous speed because one female can produce up to 1 million eggs per year (and most of those babies survive, because they have no known predators).

So, the next time you see lionfish on a restaurant menu or at your supermarket, know that you can feel good about making the choice to eat it. And, don’t worry, the cooking process completely neutralizes the venom in their spikes. As an added bonus, lionfish are known as a delicacy in other parts of the world, are incredibly high in Omega-3s, and are low in mercury. If anyone gives you grief for eating fish, tell them that when it comes to lionfish, even famous foodies like Mark Bittman, conferences like Seafood Summit, and publications like The Washington Post and Marine Science Today have exclaimed, “If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Eat ‘Em!”      

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