December 3, 2021

Lionfish University wants more culling of lionfish and people to eat them

Pin It

image-2The Lionfish University was founded by James V. Hart, Stacy Frank and Courtney Platt with the goals to increase awareness that lionfish taste good and that eating them helps save the reefs. “Gourmet cuisine that makes a positive difference!”

The first and only licensed fishery in Cayman is Spinion Lionfish fishery that was started by Maria Yapelli and her husband Mike Foreman about 9 months ago.

They harvest only lionfish and have been selling to local restaurants and there are increasing numbers of restaurants on Grand Cayman now serving lionfish. They are building a processing plant and intend to export lionfish to other locations.

They have found there is a big demand for a reliable source of lionfish in the USA. Customers have now found lionfish are very tasty indeed.

On July 16th Frank and Platt joined Yapelli and her crew of three when they went out to Grand Cayman’s Old Man’s Bay to hunt for lionfish. They found the numbers of lionfish there were down.

Since the first of the year Yapelli and her crew have pulled out 797 lionfish from the area and 5 months ago they speared around 70-90 per dive. On this last dive with Frank and Platt only 23 lionfish were found and speared. Three days later they found 37.

Frank said, “The numbers are down and empirically shows that the culling Spinion is doing is keeping the invasive lionfish numbers down and the reef healthier.”

Just recently on July 23rd divers culled more than a dozen dive sites in Little Cayman’s Bloody Bay Marine Park.

“The Great Bloody Cull”, as it was known, drew 49 dive volunteers who headed out to sea on 11 boats.

After the cull 100 people were at the “Cull-inary Taster” held at the Little Cayman Beach Resort, where most of them got their first taste of lionfish. All were positive about the taste and want to eat more of them.

Frank said the numbers on Little Cayman have reduced dramatically thanks to weekly volunteer culling efforts in Little Cayman.

She knows it is difficult if you are a non-diver to understand the terrible impact lionfish are making on Cayman’s reefs and on the native fish population. However, non-divers can still help. Eat them.

NOTE: Female lionfish produce 20,000-30,000 eggs every 3-4 days and nothing eats the eggs.

From “Coping with the Lionfish Invasion: Can Targeted Removals Yield Beneficial Effects?” By Thomas K. Frazera, Charles A. Jacobyb, Morgan A. Edwardsa, Savanna C. Barrya & Carrie M. Manfrinocd

“Invasive species generate significant environmental and economic costs, with maintenance management constituting a major expenditure. Such costs are generated by invasive Indo-Pacific lionfish (Pterois spp.) that further threaten already stressed coral reefs in the western Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea. This brief review documents rapid range expansion and potential impacts of lionfish. In addition, preliminary experimental data from targeted removals contribute to debates about maintenance management. Removals at sites off Little Cayman Island shifted the size frequency distribution of remaining lionfish toward smaller individuals whose stomachs contained less prey and fewer fish. Fewer lionfish and decreased predation on threatened grouper, herbivores and other economically and ecologically important fishes represent key steps toward protecting reefs. However, complete evaluation of success requires long-term data detailing immigration and recruitment by lionfish, compensatory growth and reproduction of lionfish, reduced direct effects on prey assemblages, and reduced indirect effects mediated by competition for food. Preventing introductions is the best way to avoid impacts from invasive species, and early detection linked to rapid response ranks second. Nevertheless, results from this case study suggest that targeted removals represent a viable option for shifting direct impacts of invasive lionfish away from highly vulnerable components of ecosystems.”

Go to:


By Courtney Platt –

Maria Yapelli left Stacy Frank right

Left to right: Chuck, Stacy Frank, Chad, Maria, Daniel

Maria holding a female lionfish with egg sac

By Colin Wilson –

Courtney Platt and Stacy Frank


Related story:

Invasive lionfish likely safe to eat after all: Easy test before you eat

Source: University of Hawaii ‑ SOEST


Scientists have learned that recent fears of invasive lionfish causing fish poisoning may be unfounded. If so, current efforts to control lionfish by fishing derbies and targeted fisheries may remain the best way to control the invasion. And there’s a simple way to know for sure whether a lionfish is toxic: test it after it’s been cooked.

IMAGE: This is an invasive lionfish speared and placed on ice, ready to be filleted and cooked.

Credit: Christie Wilcox, Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, UH SOEST.

Scientists have learned that recent fears of invasive lionfish causing fish poisoning may be unfounded. If so, current efforts to control lionfish by fishing derbies and targeted fisheries may remain the best way to control the invasion. And there’s a simple way to know for sure whether a lionfish is toxic: test it after it’s been cooked.

Pacific lionfish were first reported off the coast of Florida in the 1980s, and have been gaining swiftly in number ever since. They’re now found in marine habitats throughout the tropical and subtropical Western Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, threatening native fishes with their voracious appetites and unchecked population growth. Targeted removal is the only management strategy that seems to help, and many hope to establish a food fishery to increase the fishing pressure on these ravenous predators. Such a strategy is in jeopardy, though, because the FDA added the lionfishes Pterois volitans and Pterois miles to their ciguatera watch list, a catalog of species that may contain the potentially fatal foodborne toxin, citing evidence that lionfish have positively tested for ciguatera. As of July 2014, though, there are no known cases of ciguatera from eating lionfish.

A new study published in Environmental Biology of Fishes may have an explanation for that. Lead author Christie Wilcox of the University of Hawaii thinks there may be a different reason that so many lionfish are coming up positive on ciguatoxin tests: venom proteins might act as ciguatoxin mimics.

“We already know lionfish produce bioactive compounds — just ask anyone who has ever been stung,” she said. “We just don’t know a whole lot about what those compounds are or whether they occur outside of the venomous spines.”

Ciguatera fish poisoning is a foodborne illness caused by eating certain reef fish whose flesh contains ciguatoxins, small lipid toxins originally produced by single-celled dinoflagellates that live on or near the reef. The toxins themselves are colorless, odorless and tasteless, and cannot be destroyed or removed through any normal process of fish preparation, thus accurate testing is the only way to ensure food is safe to consume. Most current test methods are unable to actually detect the toxin compounds, and instead, focus on what the toxins do to cells to determine if a fish is contaminated.

It struck Wilcox that, at the cellular level, lionfish venom might be difficult to distinguish from ciguatoxins because they have similar activities. She took muscle, skin, spine and liver tissue from invasive lionfish and used antibodies against stonefish venom to detect the presence of venom proteins — and found them. “Lionfish express venom-like proteins throughout their bodies,” she said. “We don’t know exactly what these proteins are or what they’re doing, but we know they’re there.”

Because tissues for ciguatoxin testing undergo preparation in the laboratory to concentrate the toxins, Wilcox further tested whether these proteins made it through common lipid extraction methods used in ciguatoxin testing. Though the amount was reduced, they could still be detected. “These proteins could be making their way into ciguatoxin test dishes,” said Wilcox, “and if they are, there’s a chance they’re messing up our tests.”

The presence of these proteins in your fillets is nothing to worry about, though, says Wilcox. “Unlike ciguatoxin, lionfish venom degrades with at room temperature, let alone with heat, so you have nothing to fear from a lionfish dinner.”

The negative impact of false positives is the real issue, says co-author Mark Hixon. “Just the fear and rumor of ciguatera is enough to close a fishery, and that’s the last thing we need as we try to encourage people to fight lionfish explosion by eating the invader.”

Wilcox is quick to note that the work does not prove that lionfish are perfectly safe. “No one is debating that lionfish could be ciguatoxic,” says Wilcox. “But there’s no reason to think they’re any more ciguatoxic that groupers or other smaller predators in an area. If they’re popping positive more often than species with the same diet, that indicates there’s something fishy going on.”

Wilcox hopes that the research will urge researchers to carefully examine their testing protocols to ensure that the proteins she discovered in lionfish tissues don’t lead to unwarranted fear of lionfish consumption. “The first, easy step is to cook or boil lionfish samples prior to ciguatoxin testing. Heat degrades the venom proteins, ensuring they don’t cause any problems.”

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Hawaii ‑ SOEST. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:

Christie L. Wilcox, Mark A. Hixon. False positive tests for ciguatera may derail efforts to control invasive lionfish. Environmental Biology of Fishes, 2014; DOI: 10.1007/s10641-014-0313-0

For more on this story go to:–+ScienceDaily%29



Print Friendly, PDF & Email
About ieyenews

Speak Your Mind