If you have visited Curacao or any Caribbean island before, you must have heard people fussing about lionfish. Since it is such a beautiful little creature you probably wondered why the locals are determined to destroy it.
Lionfish does not belong in the Caribbean waters.
The lionfish simply does not belong in the Caribbean waters. They belong in the Indo-Pacific waters and the Red Sea where they are an important part of the ecological chain. They got here due to man-made error, and it appears that they will have to be removed by man as well since they have no natural predators here.
The damage they do.
Although they are pretty to look at the damage they are causing to the reefs has reached epic proportions. By adapting effortlessly on the Curacao reefs, the brightly colored Lionfish are attracting juvenile fish that curiously swim directly towards the predatory fish, which eagerly eats them up. This endangers the Curacao corals because the reefs need to be grazed by fish to keep the reefs healthy and prosperous.
Depleting the reefs of Grouper, Mahi Mahi, Wahoo and Snapper, the Lionfish has proven to be a super predator eating anything its path. With no known ocean enemy, the Lionfish are staking a claim on Curacao's pristine reefs. One female lionfish can lay up to two million eggs per year, and their egg sacs have a chemical that keeps other fish from eating them. Lionfish born here must consider themselves very lucky to be living in an all-you-can-eat 24/7 seafood buffet without anything else looking to eat them!
Lionfish are also dangerous to humans. Though a lionfish sting is not fatal, the venom will cause such burning pain once it enters your bloodstream that you might feel like you want to die! And the cure is almost as painful as the injury. The only way to alleviate the pain is to immerse the affected area into the water as hot as you can handle it without scalding yourself for a whopping 30-90 minutes!
Although fish hunting is not allowed in Curacao, the Public Prosecution of Curacao recognized the urgency to fight lionfish and announced in 2012 that it will not prosecute organized groups for lionfish hunting in territorial waters around Curacao.
The lionfish over population in Curacao continues to be a challenge to lionfish hunters who voluntarily spear up each spiny menace one at time. The lionfish hunters are making a difference with each fish they spear.
If you are on vacation in Curacao and interested in participating in lionfish hunting, you can contact the local dive centers (Divers Republic) to learn how to search and shoot lionfish underwater, and help to keep the reefs healthy and free of coral devils. After the dive, they will explain the best way to clean the fish and you can take your own lionfish home, and have one the nicest fish dishes on the island.
A delicious meal.
The good news is that lionfish are delicious and healthy to eat. Rich in omega-3 and lighter and flakier than grouper or tilapia, lionfish meat is making its way into all kinds of gourmet dishes like ceviche, fritters, tacos, battered or simply pan-fried with lemon.
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