FORT MYERS, Fla.- By now, you may have heard that lionfish have invaded the Caribbean and are moving into the Gulf of Mexico.
"We see them a lot at virtually all of our sites we dive in the Gulf," shares Jim Culter, Senior Scientist for Mote Marine Laboratory.
A study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the Bahamas shows that lionfish are capable of destroying nearly 80 percent of a reef's fish population in just five weeks!
While lionfish may not have any predators in the water, they do have one on land, people! Lee Reefs Director Mike Campbell explains the easiest way for humans to reduce an unwanted animal is to develop a taste for it!
Campbell says lionfish taste similar to Hogfish, a type of wrasse that's fished in our backyard. "No fishy taste at all; it's very light, white, flaky meat. So it's very good!"
Worried about the venomous barbs that adorn the lionfish? Don't be! The barbs are removed when the fish is filleted, leaving delicious, completely safe-to-eat meat. Of course if you're doing your own lionfishing, mind the barbs! And wear stick-proof gloves.
"People can feel good about eating them, because every one they eat doesn't do harm to the environment. It actually does some good," says Campbell.
Want to taste Lionfish for yourself? Seven local chefs will serve their best lionfish dishes on Sunday, May 4th from 2:00 until 5:00 pm at The Heights Center (15570 Hagie Drive, Fort Myers).
WINK News Meteorologist Katie Walls will emcee the Lionfish Fest. Tickets cost $50 per person; kids 12 and under eat for free. All proceeds of the Lionfish Fest benefit Lee Reefs, a nonprofit foundation that protects our natural reefs, and The Heights Foundation, a non-profit organization that works to build strong, self-sufficient families in the Harlem Heights neighborhood.
Chefs participating in the event include Chef Brian Roland from Crave Culinaire, Chef Marbin Avilez from The Firestone, Chef Kenny G. From Red's Fresh Seafood House and Tavern in Cape Coral, Chef Russel Dame from Red's Fresh Seafood House and Tavern on Pine Island, Chef David Squillante from Sea Dog Brewing Company, John Browning from Three Fisherman Seafood Restaurant, and Chef Teh from The Timbers.
For more information please visit http://heightsfoundation.org/lionfish-fest-feast-beast/