The Invasive Yet Edible Lionfish

Aug 1, 2014


  Here in Hawaii, Lionfish are an exotic aquarium attraction, with their long poisonous spines.

In the Atlantic Ocean, Red Lionfish have become an invasive species with no natural predators. They often eat up to ninety-percent of the smaller fish in a reef. But adding them into local fisheries in the Atlantic as a form of “conservational hunting” controls their numbers. They‘re caught…cooked…and taste a lot like red snapper. To protect Pacific fish, laws prevent their release into Hawaiian waters. Mark Hixon is a professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. 

Hixon says that if red lionfish do make their way to the Pacific, he recommends eating them as a form of population control. Research from the University of Hawaii at Manoa has shown that poison in the fish’s spines “mimic” ciguatera, a common fish toxin. This false-positive result has led to the common myth that the lionfish is not edible. But Hixon says that if the fish does invade the pacific, it’s still safe to eat as long as the ciguatera test is done after cooking the fish. Hixon adds that eating the fish would be the only way we could thin their numbers.