Hunting the tasty lionfish

An environmentally-conscious and delicious event takes place on Thursday, 20 and Thursday, 27 January.

The Culinary Lionfish Hunt and Cookoff is designed to both draw attention to a serious problem facing Cayman and to introduce participants to a delicious new flavour, explained Emma Nicholsby of Divetech.

“We’re going out in the afternoon for a one-tank dive and whatever we cull we will bring back for the chef at Cobalt Coast to cook up in a variety of ways.

“The lionfish is an IndoPacific fish that has infiltrated into the Caribbean waters. Hurricane Andrew in the 1990s may have broken aquariums in the United States and the fish came into the canal system there, or people who had the fish maybe dumped them in Florida when they got too big,” she explained.

The fish have since been found as far north as New York State and as far south as Venezuela, and because they have rapacious appetites, breed incredibly quickly and have no natural Caribbean predators they can very quickly destroy any ecosystem.

“They are ferocious, eat the reef’s juvenile fish and humans are the only predators here whilst in the Indo-pacific there seems to be a happy balance.”

The hunt starts at 1pm, said Arie Barendrecht, proprietor of Cobalt Coast Dive Resort. People wanting to participate can come along as cullers, providing they have the correct lisenses from the Department of the Environment, or spotters if they do not.

“We’ll prepare appetisers and make a nice dinner out of it with some wine; lionfish wrapped in bacon is a fine combination as the fish is a subtle taste. We are wide open for the meal and it grills well in foil with a lot of people enjoying it steamed in a wrap. Whatever seasoning you use the fish picks up well, like you might do with trout, for example.”

And though the flavour is difficult to describe, says Arie, some people have noted it is akin to grouper.

The Lionfish Hunt and Cookout takes place from 1pm on Thursday, 20 and Thursday, 27 January.

It’s $85 per person for the dive and cookout; for further information call Divetech on 946 5658 or Cobalt Coast on 946 5656.