Lionfish in Bocas have met their match with so many businesses and restaurants on board to get the whole archipelago ‘eating the enemy.’ Adding this invasive yet delicious species to your daily cuisine is easier than ever.
Beautiful, striped and exotic-looking, and complete with 18 venomous spines, this voracious vulture is causing a growing rate of ecological destruction in the Atlantic and Caribbean coral reef ecosystems. The lionfish in Bocas are no exception. Native to the Indo-Pacific and introduced to the Caribbean in the 1990’s this species can survive in many different habitats – including water as low as 52°F. Eating 70 different types of marine life and animals; many of which are vital to the health of our coral reefs, they compete for food with our native fish such as grouper and red snapper. They even prey on juvenile native reef fishes. The predator eats up to 460,000 fish per acre per year; reducing some native fish populations by up to 90 percent. They are overeating beyond what they need to survive.
Lionfish are becoming obese.
Many people say the taste of this fish is a cross between lobster and shrimp. In a ceviche, the texture is buttery and melts in your mouth. It can be fried whole and put into tacos. We read someone call it “the chicken of the sea”. It many parts of the world it is considered a delicacy. It really is just an incredibly versatile and delicious white fish.
So what’s the catch? Why aren’t all of these suckers off our precious reefs and in our bellies?
Those 18 venomous spines are extremely poisonous and can be sharper than a hypodermic needle. Thirteen of them are located along the spine in the dorsal fins. There is one short spine on the pelvic fin and three short spines on the anal fin. The tools recommended to clean and prepare lionfish are puncture-proof gloves, long tongs, extremely sharp filet knife, and trauma shears – the kind paramedics use that can cut through anything. It is no wonder the residents of Bocas haven’t quite known what to do when it comes to handling the fish in order to eat it!
It is important to note here that Cosmic Crab has proudly and bravely had lionfish on its menu for years. Owner Joan Crabtree has always promoted the importance of catching and ‘eating the enemy’ which you can read more about in the Kill ‘Em and Grill ‘Em article we published in 2019.
Thank you to Joan and the Cosmic Crab team for being one of the pioneers in Panama telling everyone how important it is to eradicate lionfish in Bocas. While you’re there check out the article we wrote in 2014 to bring more awareness to this petulent problem.
So how do we start eating all of the lionfish in Bocas that we desire?!
In comes Steve Bender, president of the Newport Beach California Rotary Club and also quite involved with our local outfit, the Rotary Club of Bocas del Toro. Since arriving to the islands, Bender has created a series of community-wellness projects – Focus on Bocas. He has recently kicked off a movement called The Lionfish Project – Focus on Bocus. “We are working together with divers, fishermen, restaurants and local organizations to help eradicate lionfish in the Bocas archipelago. We are looking for 12 restaurants to participate in our program in the next month to develop lionfish recipes and have lionfish specials. Lobsters can use a break here in Bocas so why not give lionfish a try!” says Bender.
Sabroso Meats and Super Gourmet have begun to carry these delicious devils all ready for at-home culinary adventures. Make your experience amazing by checking out out the easy recipes Super G has so kindly posted on Facebook. Wasteless World has been at the head of the movement by not only cooking with the fish but creating jewelry and more like keychains with the 18 venomous yet stunning spines (removed in the proper way in order to render the fish okay to eat). They just held an amazing Lionfish Inauguration event at Skully’s. In fact, just this morning on their @waste_less_world Instagram account, founder Tom Wright premiered their latest lionfish project: baked dog treats made of lionfish and vegetables! Bocas Sushi has jumped on board rolling up absolutely delicious lionfish sushi rolls. And The Floating Bar has contributed their dose of charitable shenanigans serving a shot glass of lionfish ceviche with every drink during their Fishy FriYay promotions on Fridays (depending on the local fishermen community’s availability with the product).
The participation so far is overwhelming and The Bocas Breeze sends a genuine thank you to every participating business.
Contact The LionFish Project-Focus on Bocas for more information on becoming a partner in the project.
Let’s get the whole archipelago eating all of the lionfish in Bocas!