Lionfish are a definite environmental issue throughout the Caribbean. Luckily, this issue has been identified and, over the years, has been effectively controlled through organised culls in the Cayman Islands. Such initiatives have considerably reduced the lionfish population.
Native to the Indo-Pacific region, it’s believed that an aquarium owner released only eight captive lionfish off the coast of Florida in 1985. While lionfish are strikingly beautiful creatures with their distinctive stripes and spines, they are also an eco-disaster to the Caribbean and its dive industry. They are voracious predators that devour small, juvenile fish and crustaceans in large quantities, as well as competing with native species for space and more food. This, coupled with the fact that they can reach reproductive maturity at less than one-year old, and lay 30,000 eggs every four days, makes them a major problem for Cayman waters.
A surprising fact is that lionfish are delicious and completely safe to eat. As a white fish, they are mild and flaky when cooked. If you don’t want to catch them yourself, they appear on the menu at Tukka and Eagle Rays Bar & Grill in East End and Guy Harvey’s in George Town. This is one reef fish we can eat with a clean conscience!