Lionfish and Chips? NMSF and SeaWeb Seek
Chefs’ Help Migrating Invasive Species to the Menu
Call-out for Lionfish Recipes
One way to help eliminate one of the Atlantic Ocean’s greatest threats might be with a side of sauce piquant.
While visually stunning, the lionfish is an invasive species plaguing marine ecosystems in US waters, particularly the southeast Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean. As conventional population reduction methods have proven unsuccessful, organizations are innovating new tactics. The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation (NMSF) and SeaWeb hope a secret weapon – America’s chefs – will spread the word that lionfish are malicious but delicious.
Last month, the first “Celebrity Chef Lionfish Challenge” was held during the annual SeaWeb Seafood Summit, the world’s premier conference on sustainable seafood. Co-hosted by SeaWeb and NMSF, the Challenge brought together seven top regional chefs to prepare their signature lionfish dishes.
NMSF, which funds and administers programs on behalf of the 14 US National Marine Sanctuaries, and SeaWeb have partnered with chefs in the past, providing them with knowledge about the benefits of adopting sustainable sourcing and practices in restaurants, plus having them educate customers.
Now, SeaWeb and NMSF want chefs to help popularize the lionfish as an available, tasty food source which, in turn will cut down its ocean numbers. They are seeking all chefs, professional and casual, to share their lionfish dishes to be featured on the Foundation website. Send your recipes to firstname.lastname@example.org and include your name and restaurant (if applicable), address and website address. If you have a blog, please include that address.
“Chefs have demonstrated phenomenal power to influence the marketplace and lead consumers to viable solutions for problems,” said Jason Patlis, President and CEO, NMSF. “The lionfish is an abundant, sustainable and versatile seafood alternative. We hope to inspire them to promote lionfish as a menu option, motivate the fishing industry to harvest it and tempt the public with the fish’s versatility. Wide-scale support from chefs and local communities is needed to help mitigate the potential long-term negative consequences affecting native fish communities and habitats.”
According to Dawn Martin, President, SeaWeb, “Chefs play a critical role in setting food trends and, through this effort, can help reduce lionfish populations and the pressure they place on other wild fish species. Efforts like this play an important role in educating consumers about the risks of invasive species and in helping to re-establish the ecological balance in the ocean. The chefs with whom we’ve worked also rave about lionfish’s taste, texture and versatility.”
Lionfish were first confirmed in US waters in the 1980s and, with few natural predators and a fast breeding cycle, their presence is now permanent. They have had significant impact in the Flower Garden Banks, Florida Keys, and Gray’s Reef national marine sanctuaries.
Reduction of the lionfish population is a priority throughout the ocean community and, among their many functions and services, the Sanctuaries serve as sentinel sites for control efforts. NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries has just released its Lionfish Recovery Plan. At Flower Garden Banks, NMSF-funded expeditions have removed quantities of the predators and provided data used to improve population control techniques. Lionfish research efforts at Flower Garden Banks
The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation is a private, nonprofit organization that connects people to the most valued places in our American ocean: National Marine Sanctuaries. The Foundation engages citizens through a breadth of educational programs, advocacy and scientific research.
SeaWeb works collaboratively with targeted sectors to encourage market solutions, policies and behaviors that result in a healthy, thriving ocean. By using the science of communications to inform and empower diverse ocean voices and conservation champions, SeaWeb is creating a culture of ocean conservation.