Conservationalist promotes Lionfish comsumption and export

This past weekend, while in Placenica, we got a chance to speak to a researcher and conservationist based in the Bacalar Chico reserve who is fighting a deadly invasion. Since 2009 the lionfish has systematically eaten its way through much of Belize’s habitat and is a growing threat. According to Jennifer Chapman of Blue Ventures Research, one way to fight back is to eat them – the lionfish, that is.

Jennifer Chapman – Blue Ventures Research:
vlcsnap-2013-05-31-08h41m22s50We need to be doing something about this. We already realize that it’s not possible to completely eradicate Lionfish.  They’ve already got their claws in too deep into the reef, and there’s no way you can completely get rid of them. However we need to control their population as much as we can, and in order to control the population, to limit the expansion of the population, we need to have a very large and consistent removal effort, removing them all from the reef.  Now that would be very expensive if we were to employ people to go out and do so, but it’s very fortunate that Lionfish actually have a very delicious white meat, which is a bit similar to Grouper or in terms of western fisheries you can compare it to Cod. So it has a very high market value overseas, and it has the potential to have a high market value in Belize as well.

Chapman explains that there is a market for the lionfish, whose spines are venomous but is otherwise safe and healthy to eat when properly cooked.

Jennifer Chapman – Blue Ventures Research:
LionfishWe have a contact in the US who’s very keen to buy Lionfish from Belize, and he wants us to export it there.  He’s willing to pay quite a nice sum.  I’m not going to release the amount yet, what’s going to be paid for Lionfish, but we pray that it’s going to bring in quite a nice amount of money, comparable or even in excess to what you would get for fillet or snapper or grouper.  So it’s really a good value fish.
Exporting it is going to start with just a small quantity, and in order to prove the market overseas we need to just keep it as a small consistent quality for six months.  After we’ve proven that Belize is able to  supply with this consistent quality of Lionfish, they want to rack up the amount to huge amounts.  Basically they said the demand is insatiable. As much as we can give them, they can sell.

We note that our lunch in Placencia this weekend was fried lionfish with rice and beans, coleslaw and a tall glass of orange juice – delicious! The Placencia area hosts a lionfish catching tournament as part of the annual Lobsterfest and other areas do so as well.

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