We visited Pensacola for an afternoon after a morning at the beach. Pensacola seems like a lovely place to live; small, clean and compact. We stopped at the center of town to participate in a unique event, at least one not likely to come to our home town, “Lionfish Removal & Awareness Day”.
You see, Pensacola is ground zero for an international problem, the growth of an invasive species, in this case the Lionfish, in the local estuary and elsewhere. The Lionfish is an Asian predator fish accidentally released in US waters sometime within the last 10 – 15 years. It has a voracious appetite and spawns with fecundity. It is now present in most area of the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico.
|Weigh-in for the Lionfish Roundup|
The Lionfish eats virtually anything that moves. For humans, the result is fewer game fish. However, there are broader environmental issues. Several reef fish feed on plants and animals that keep the reef healthy. Those reef fish seem to be disappearing as well.
Lionfish to not respond to lures and cannot be caught the conventional way. The most effective technique involves spearing them while snorkeling or scuba diving. Did I mention that they have 13 poisonous dorsal spines and 5 additional ones elsewhere on their body? This is not a job for amateurs.
Until a better method of control emerges, the authorities are trying to develop a market for Lionfish filet, hoping that a commercial incentive can begin to address the problem. We learned that the flesh is very tasty, much like other white fish. However, as the harvesting is labor intensive, restaurants are reluctant to keep is as a regular menu item.
All in all, it proved an interesting afternoon.
We had a lovely dinner at the Fish House right in Pensacola. They did not have Lionfish on the menu.