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Lionfish is a tasty option

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While it’s rare that we are told to eat as much fish as possible, in terms of invasive species it may be the best way to get a handle on the population explosion.

This is particularly the case of the lionfish population in Bermuda, which is one of the central missions of Groundswell, a group of likeminded people raising awareness of environmental issues.

One of the main events that Groundswell has become known for is the Lionfish Tournament, which was first staged in 2009.

“Our first project is the REEFSPECT initiative,” says Matthew Strong, Groundswell’s co-founder. “Our focus of this initiative is that of the threat of the invasive species of lionfish that is showing up in our coastal waters. We feel there are practical solutions to this problem that are within reach of every Bermudian.”

Groundswell, which also consists of co-founder Selange Gitschner as well as Timothy Davidson, Christian Pollard, Jennifer Adams, Matthew Hammond and Timothy Noise, along with many other environmental activists, hope that the trend of eating lionfish will catch on in Bermuda and that lionfish will become a favourite fish choice.

“Hopefully Bermudians will show some ‘reefspect’ and start asking for it (lionfish) by name at restaurants, grocery stores and their roadside fisherman.”

While other populations of fish struggle to survive due to overfishing, Mr Strong says we can all do our part in order to combat the lionfish problem.

“It is the only fish we can eat in good conscience as its removal from the reef is actually beneficial to the health of that reef,” says Mr Strong.

It may be some time before we start seeing lionfish on the menu or at the grocery store in Bermuda, but this weekend along with staging the tournament the group will also be holding an information and tasting session at Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS) following the tournament.

“We aim to change the culture in Bermuda to incorporate lionfish into local menus and have it targeted by commercial and recreational fishermen. Essentially eating them to reduce their numbers,” explains Mr Strong. “There will be opportunities at the tournament weigh in to witness safe handling, preparation and cooking techniques of lionfish as well as actually tasting the fish.”

When the tournament was originally staged in 2009, while there was plenty of interest and involvement, only four lionfish were caught.

“Although it is good thing that not more of these pests were seen on the reef we feel it gave the wrong message that these fish are not as big a problem as all the environmentalists have been warning,” says Mr Strong.

Large numbers of lionfish are often found in deeper waters that are far too great for spearfishermen or recreational divers, he adds.

“This is one of the main reasons we are trying to create a market for lionfish (through our tastings at the tournament), which we hope will in turn encourage a commercial fishery that can target these fish at greater depths.”

Because of the lionfish’s venomous tentacles it is important that anyone interested in participating in the fishing tournament educate themselves on the safe handling of the fish.

Groundswell has set up their website www.reefspect.com with links to videos showing how to properly handle lionfish.

“All participants should also be knowledgeable in the type of method they choose to catch these fish,” Mr Strong adds.

The Groundswell Lionfish Tournament takes place this Sunday August 7 starting at 6am until 3pm. Registration deadline is tomorrow at 5pm.

For more information and to download an entry form log onto the Groundswell website www.reefspect.com.

“Probably the most important message we can get across here,” concludes Mr Strong, “is that we are stuck with lionfish forever and that if we do not try to manage this problem we are likely to experience dramatic ecological degradation of our reefs. Our reefs provide us with recreation, food, protection from erosion and money.”

Groundswell Co-founder Matthew Strong in this file photo promoting the 2009 Lionfish Tournament.
The invasive lionfish.

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Published August 04, 2011 at 12:00 pm (Updated August 04, 2011 at 12:55 pm)

Lionfish is a tasty option

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