In a reef just off the popular USS Kittiwake dive site in Grand Cayman, hunters armed with spears seek out lionfish – an invasive species so destructive that authorities want them caught and served up as a tasty dish.
With their striking pectoral fins and venomous dorsal spikes that fan out like a lion’s mane, the rampant lionfish have few natural predators and eat up smaller fish, shrimp and crab that protect the reef.
The Cayman Islands are fighting back with a campaign that encourages local divers to hunt lionfish so that restaurants can serve them up to tourists. Native to the Indo-Pacific, lionfish are believed to have spread after some escaped from a private aquarium in south Florida during Hurricane Andrew back in 1992.
They have since migrated throughout the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean, and even the eastern US seaboard as far as Rhode Island, where they die in winter.
Lionfish has begun to match grouper, snapper, and mahi-mahi as a delicacy in Cayman.
“Boy, are they good to eat,” said celebrity Spanish chef Jose Andres. “Their sweet, white meat is unbelievable as a ceviche or sautéed with fresh herbs,” he said. REUTERS