The National Aquarium’s DC venue recently teamed up with several east coast eateries to introduce a unique sustainable seafood menu item, lionfish, whose taste is distinctive as its story.
The Red Lionfish is an invasive species with strong defense mechanisms in its venomous pectoral spines. It preys on fish, shrimp and crabs and have even been observed feeding on fish more than half their total size!
The National Aquarium’s research team has observed a tenfold increase in lionfish numbers in the Bahamas from 2005 to 2007, with ongoing spread throughout the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. In 2009, researchers were dismayed to confirm the arrival of the Red Lionfish in the Florida Keys. Ongoing research continues to determine what effects these invaders are having on native marine ecosystems.
At a time when concerned vendors, restaurateurs and diners are seeking sustainable seafood choices, the Red Lionfish may provide a commercial opportunity as well as a means to controlling an invasive species in the Atlantic. With so many fish stocks over exploited, the lionfish offers a great-tasting fillet (similar taste and texture to Tilapia) and a new product for the Atlantic- based fishing industry.
At a recent meeting held at the National Aquarium, members of the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington (RAMW) raved over the various preparations of the fish and the strong eco-benefits of serving it. If you are wondering about the venomous spines, they were removed prior to shipping, as should be the practice of any processors who sell the fish.
You can learn more about lionfish at the National Aquarium in DC, which has a wonderful lionfish exhibit. And, be on the look out for Red lionfish from the Atlantic Ocean on menus and in stores. If you are a seafood lover in the region, the National Aquarium’s Baltimore venue is offering a sustainable seafood dining series featuring many different sustainable seafood choices.