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Cayman Islands Government

Lion Tamers in the Kitchen

Preparing lionfish for cooking: Use kitchen shears to cut off the top, bottom and dorsal fins. Wear gloves to avoid being pricked by the venomous spines.

Though proud and showy in the wild, Red Lionfish make delicious dishes and are now served in Cayman's best restaurants.

The local effort to cull and contain the invasive, destructive fish - which threatens reef life in the region - continues. Especially so, by appealing to the palate of local diners as well as some marine-based feeders.

On Friday, 26 August, Stephen Broadbelt of Ocean Frontiers demonstrated to ten top chefs and restaurateurs the straightforward recipe for capturing, cleaning and preparing Lionfish (described by top chefs as versatile and succulent).

It is as follows:

  • Diver and spearfishermen trained by DoE are culling the Lionfish using a Department of the Environment (DoE) issued spear. Fish are then delivered to chefs on demand.
  • Use a kitchen shears to cut off the top, bottom and dorsal fins. Wear gloves to avoid being pricked by the venomous spines.
  • Scrape away the soft scales.
  • Gut the Lionfish - which is not poisonous.
  • Season this exotic dish to taste, and prepare in a variety of creative ways.
  • Serve, enjoy, and repeat.

The goal is to seek and destroy the predatory Lionfish - especially before they are big enough to reproduce, as they do in massive numbers. The need to reduce the population is critical. From seven months old, a single fish can produce two million eggs annually.

In the Cayman Islands, some 5,000 Lionfish have been caught so far this year during routine dives and regular "safaris". The fish used for today's demonstration was 15 inches long, less than two inches shy of the world record. Many of the fish were shared with chefs at the event.

Broadhouse said local divers are also encouraging sea life in the effort, by feeding Lionfish morsels to moray eels, snappers, nurse sharks and groupers to help them develop a taste for the finned marauders.

Today's education session was organised by the Cayman Islands Tourism Association (CITA) for its restaurant members. CITA has ongoing Lionfish efforts including seminars and hunts involving a range of residents. For more information contact CITA; or the DoE at 949 8469 or DoE.

(GIS)(GIS)

For further information contact: Lennon Christian