The Truth about Lionfish - Sail Magazine

The Truth about Lionfish

Bahamian reefs, which have suffered for years from over-fishing, pollution and plastic waste, now have a new environmental menace to contend with.  Fortunately, this one is delicious.
Author:
Publish date:
Lionfish

Bahamian reefs, which have suffered for years from over-fishing, pollution and plastic waste, now have a new environmental menace to contend with. 

Fortunately, this one is delicious.

Lionfish, the gaudy, spiny critters that were once only aquarium novelties outside their home turf in Asia, have followed the typical script for invasive species. Some years ago, a hurricane smashed an aquarium in Florida and released six of the creatures into the wild. Their offspring spread throughout the Bahamas, devouring indigenous reef-fish, pushing several already endangered fish populations even closer to extinction.

Fortunately, the cruising sailor and the lionfish seem have a perfect predator-prey relationship. Most cruisers are slow-moving underwater, and so too is the lionfish. Some cruisers are fairly poor shots with a pole spear. The docile lionfish is an easy target and is therefore our perfect prey. Of course, many environmentally friendly cruisers think hunting animals is an unfair sport. But the lionfish, with its appetite for baby reef fish and its ability to poke the spear hunter back, is hardly innocent. 

While the venom in its spines is a toxin, the lionfish itself is not toxic. Having eaten dozens, I can vouch for the fact that none of the fish I have consumed were toxic and all were ciguatera-free. 

Of course, while hunting lionfish one needs to beware of their spines. The first lionfish I speared promptly jabbed a spine into the back of my thumb. It hurt, but I did not suffer for more than a few minutes. 

Fortunately, lionfish don’t seem to understand that their spines are their best defense and they will never attack you. Defending yourself against an accidental poking is simple; inexpensive gardening gloves appear to be impervious to the spines. Watch speared fish closely so they don’t wiggle down the shaft toward you. When swimming back to the boat with your kill, hold your spear away from your body and out of the water if possible. Have someone onboard wearing gloves ready to take your spear and remove your prize.

When cleaning the fish, you can avoid getting poked by wearing gloves and being careful. If you brush the pectoral fin from head to tail, the pointy bits can be avoided and the fin removed with a sharp filleting knife. The head also has some frilly parts that can sting you. Some people will remove the dorsal fin spines with kitchen shears before scaling and filleting their fish, but I find these to be a non-issue once the fish is lying flat on a filleting table. Once scaled, filleted, dipped in egg and rolled in bread crumbs, this environmental scourge appears much less menacing than it does below water— and is much tastier. 

Related

SouthernOcean

The 50th Anniversary of the Golden Globe

Here we go! The 50th anniversary of the Golden Globe, the first singlehanded nonstop round-the-world race, is upon us. On July 1 one tribute event, the Golden Globe Race 2018, will start out of Les Sables d’Olonne, France, with a fleet of 19 amateur skippers setting out in ...read more

180621-X01-Landing-Page

Volvo Ocean Race Cliffhanger

After racing over 44,000 miles round the world and battling their way past the world’s great capes, including the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Horn, it’s all come down to the final 700-mile leg from Gothenburg, Sweden, to the Hague. Brunel, Mapfre, Dongfeng: going into the ...read more

Stearns Photo

Racing the Solo Mac for a Cause

There are plenty of reasons to do a Chicago-Mac race, and Rich Stearns, who has done literally dozens of ‘em should know. This year, though, he’s doing the Solo-Mac for an especially important reason: to help those with prostate cancer.“Two years ago, I was diagnosed with ...read more

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell.Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.comRafting dangerOne unseen danger when sailing yachts lie alongside one another for a convivial night is that if they happen roll to a wash or begin to move in an unexpected sea, the spreaders can clash ...read more

180615-01 Lead

A Dramatic Comeback in the Volvo

After winning three of the last four legs in the Volvo Ocean Race (and coming in second in the fourth), Dutch-flagged Brunel is now tied for first overall with Spanish-flagged Mapfre and Chinese-flagged Dongfeng following the completion of Leg 10 from Cardiff, Wales, to ...read more

MFS-5-2018-Propan-SP02

Tohatsu LPG-powered 5hp Propane Motor

Gassing it UpTired of ethanol-induced fuel issues? Say goodbye to gasoline. Japanese outboard maker Tohatsu has introduced an LPG-powered 5hp kicker that hooks up to a propane tank for hours of stress-free running. Available in short-, long- or ultra-long-shaft versions, the ...read more