Lionfish Invasion Solution Is To Eat Them, But Is The Danger Of Toxins Too Great?

A proposed lionfish invasion solution is to simply eat them and thus reduce their overwhelming populations in the Atlantic Ocean.

As previously reported by The Inquisitr, the lionfish invasion is harming other fish populations living in coral reefs.

Experts from the Ocean Support Foundation claim “the lionfish invasion is probably the worst environmental disaster the Atlantic will ever face.” Lionfish can be found today in the Amazon, the Bahamas, the Caribbean, and the waters near North Carolina. They can produce 30,000 eggs at a time and they’re hunting 90 percent of other fish out of the reefs. So experts are recommending that humans curtail the lionfish invasion by getting fishermen to catch them and for restaurants to serve them up.

Seafood fans may fear they might consume lionfish venom if the chef messes up their dish. NOAA experts say not to worry, since cooking lionfish involves separating the meat from where the toxins are stored in its 18 venomous spines:

“Once stripped of its venomous spines, cleaned and filleted like any other fish, the lionfish becomes delectable seafood fare.”

Further, once the lionfish meat is cooked, any toxins would be rendered harmless. Even if a human were to be poked by one of the spines it only causes pain and swelling but is typically not fatal. Lionfish also contains a low amount of omega fat, making it one of the healthiest fish to cook, as well.

But while the lionfish toxins are unlikely to harm humans there is still a danger to this lionfish invasion solution. Ciguatera poisoning can be caused by microscopic sea plants consumed by lionfish and other fish living in reefs like amberjack. Over 50,000 cases of Ciguatera poisoning are reported each year, and this other toxin causes neurological problems such as painful tingling hands and feet, a feeling of having loose teeth, and a reversed sense of temperature.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) believes the lionfish invasion solution of eating them might not be the best ideas after tests of nearly 200 lionfish show that more than a quarter exceed federal levels for the toxin that causes ciguatera:

“We certainly don’t promote any campaign like that since we have found levels above our guidance. It certainly wouldn’t be our recommendation at this time.”

James Morris, a marine ecologist with the National Center for Coastal Ocean Science, points out “we have always known that all reef fish can have ciguatera fish poisoning.” Morris believes the FDA’s objection to the lionfish invasion solution can be answered by simply avoiding fishing reefs were ciguatera is known to be a problem.

Still, restaurants and fishermen might not be too enthusiastic about this lionfish invasion solution. Erin Spencer, a student at William & Mary who is studying potential lionfish invasion solutions, says fears over lionfish neurotoxin may make this expert advice hard to swallow:

“You’re talking to these fishermen that could be bringing in valuable fish they know people would want and they’re getting less money for the lionfish meat.”

Unfortunately, lionfish tend to hang out in deeper waters and avoid the fishing nets. They will sometime become caught in lobster traps but fishermen are usually forced to resort to spear guns, which is not exactly the fastest way to commercially fish.

Do you think the best lionfish invasion solution is to eat them or should experts try a new approach?