Thursday, September 27, 2012

Wondering what to eat? Try lionfish!

Carl Safina, author of THE VIEW FROM LAZY POINT and A SEA IN FLAMES, has released a series of guests posts on food columnist Mark Bittman's blog on The Opinion Pages of The New York Times.  Safina is a marine biologist, the founder of the Blue Ocean Institute at Stony Brook University, and a recipient of the MacArthur "Genius" Grant. His series, entitled "Scourge of the Lionfish," focuses on the red lionfish, a beautiful, quilled fish native to the west Pacific, the Indian Ocean, and the Red Sea that has become dangerously invasive along Atlantic coastlines stretching from Venezuela to Rhode Island.  

As Safina writes, "In a world where the main concern about fishing is overfishing, and the main demand on fish is to feed an increasingly hungry human-dominated world, it may seem odd to complain about abundance. But theirs [the lionfish's] is an abundance that produces widespread scarcity. That's because invaders from afar often crowd out or gobble a wide array of desirable natives. And as an invading saltwater fish--the lion is king."

With venomous spines and a deceptive seaweed-like disguise when on the hunt, the lionfish is virtually untouchable. Lionfish prey upon many juvenile fish, including (among others) parrotfish, which are important for keeping coral reefs alive and thriving. As Safina argues, the ocean simply cannot afford to experience a scarcity of parrotfish or any other native fish.

And so, the solution proposed to restore marine habitats and prevent the invasive lionfish from destroying the underdogs is just as unorthodox as the complaint: hunt down the lionfish and eat them.

Red lionfish and Carl Safina. Photo by Safina.

While Safina and a crew of cameramen were filming for Safina's upcoming PBS series Saving the Ocean, they traveled to the Bahamas, Florida, and Mexico to investigate the lionfish.  Below are links to each of the fascinating articles in Safina's series:

Part 1: Why the lionfish began appearing in the Atlantic in the first place and why they are such superb--and direly threatening--predators.

Part 2: How contestants in a lionfish derby launched their own attack against these invasive predators, by spearfishing them and frying them up.

Part 3: How fishermen are trying to commercialize the lionfish by catching them in bulk and convincing restaurants in the States and elsewhere to put lionfish on their menus. Fortunately the lionfish are, in Safina's words, "really delicious."

Part 4: Safina's thoughts on how human overfishing in general may have led to the domination of the lionfish.

As Safina concludes, "It's a sad commentary about how we're changing the world that killing and eating one of the world's most beautiful fish--as long as they're from the Caribbean or Atlantic Ocean--actually helps."

Safina's PBS series Saving the Ocean will premiere in mid-October.  Expect more from us soon as we near the release date!  In the meantime, you can learn more about the TV series at PBS or the Saving the Ocean website.  Once the premiere date is nearer, be sure to find out when Saving the Ocean will appear on your local station at this link

No comments:

Post a Comment