Eating Invasive Species

27 July, 2019

An invasion of lionfish in the Mediterranean Sea has led the European Union to promote the animal as a food. The goal is to control the lionfish's rapidly growing population.

"Wanted" says the poster of a lionfish on Larnaca Marina, in Cyprus. Dead or fried. Or even grilled, or in a pasta dish.

A lionfish is seen at the Table Top dive site off the coast of Capo Greko on January 15, 2018.
A lionfish is seen at the Table Top dive site off the coast of Capo Greko on January 15, 2018.

The lionfish may be known to people who keep fish as pets. Its brightly colored stripes and fins look beautiful. However, its back fins are poisonous, its sting is toxic and it eats other fish. It also reproduces quickly: Lionfish lay up to 30,000 eggs every four days.

And it has no known predators. At least, not yet.

Periklis Kleitou is a researcher at the University of Plymouth. "We hope that humans can become the enemy of the lionfish in the Mediterranean," he said. Kleitou spoke to the Reuters news agency during a recent expedition off Larnaca.

Christos Giovannis led the expedition. He said, "Four years ago you were lucky to see one [lionfish], and everyone would take a picture, saying ‘wow.' Now if you dive there, there are thousands."

Scientists say climate change and an enlargement of the Suez Canal have allowed species that normally live in the Indo-Pacific to come to the Mediterranean.

Since early 2019, teams of divers have been swimming in the water around Cyprus in a campaign to reduce lionfish numbers.

Chefs have also given public classes on how to gut the fish. They also suggest ways to cook it – like deep frying or putting it on the barbecue.

Fans of the fish say it is delicious.

"Lionfish can be prepared in many different ways. On the grill, fried ... whichever way you want," said local chef Stelios Georgiou. "As long as you remove the spine, which contains the venom, you can serve it like a normal fish."

I'm John Russell.

Yiannis Kourtoglou reported on this story for Reuters. John Russell adapted it for Learning English. Kelly Jean Kelly was the editor.


Words in This Story

stripe – n. a long, narrow line of color

fin – n. a thin flat part that sticks out from the body of a fish and is used in moving or guiding the fish through water

toxic – adj. containing poisonous substances

expedition – n. a journey especially by a group of people for a specific purpose (such as to explore a distant place or to do research)

gut – v. to remove the internal organs from (a fish or an animal)

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