The rapacious red lion fish may be appearing on restaurant menus throughout Cayman very soon. Restaurateurs and chefs were shown how to clean the invasive fish during a demonstration at Michael’s Genuine Food and Drink. Divemaster and environmentalist Steve Broadbelt of Ocean Frontiers talked the Cayman Islands Tourism Association’s restaurant sector through the history and effect that the lion fish can have on reefs and marine life.
As it is not native to these waters, it has no natural predators, said Mr. Broadbelt, who revealed that the creatures can produce two million eggs annually. Because they feed on juvenile fish and crustaceans they can quickly devastate an area of reef before moving on, which harms marine stock rebuilding efforts, destroys snapper and grouper stocks and stymie coral reef conservation measures. The predator can live from 10 metres all the way down to 175 metres and uses its venomous spines as protection. However, once the spines are removed and disposed of carefully, the flesh of the fish is harmless and delicious and lends itself very well to a number of dishes. Executive Chef Thomas Tennant cooked the fillets of the large lion fish that Mr. Broadbelt had brought and the meeting’s attendees enjoyed a taste. He added that the smaller lion fish may be good in cerviche, for example. The intent is to create a situation where there may be a financial incentive for divers licensed to spear and kill the fish. They could subsquently create a market to sell the produce to a supermarket such as Fosters, said Mr. Broadbelt. A number of eateries already buy the fish for special dishes and there is an increasing number of dedicated lion fish culls and cookoffs taking place throughout Cayman.