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Monday, May 24, 2010

In Like A Lionfish, Out Like A Spam

There's been a lot of talk about the growing number of lionfish in the Western Atlantic, Caribbean and even farther south -- I guess summering off the U.S. coast and wintering Bob Marlin and The Whalers-style. These are places -- oceans, even -- where you're not "supposed" to find lionfish. Aquarium lovers are thought to be the culprits.

But the result is that they're eating up lots of local fish and crustaceans that aren't used to evading this particular predator, which eats a lot. In fact, the U.S. Geological Survey's Nonindigenous Aquatic Species list points out that the lionfish is a fairly undiscriminating eater, or rather one that's happy to go with the flow:
The species is relatively quick to adapt to novel prey types, and quickly learns to avoid noxious prey (Fishelson 1997)
They're eating baby lobsters, fer chrissakes! One of the most vexing problems is that there's not much that'll eat a lionfish, aside from a bigger lionfish. So what to do?

Cue the most ravenous creature that's ever walked, crawled, swum, flown, or dived. NOAA's Renata Lana put it thusly: "They don't belong here, and we should just eat them all." Here's a recent AP video highlighting the problem (Am I missing something, by the way? What does this problem have to do with "going green"?)

Cioppino, sautee, sushi, stir-fry. Pick your poison. Er, their poison. Sounds good to me...Californian and Russian sushi aficionados are presumably getting bored with their whale meat anyways. Bring. It. On.

So here's an idea. If you've been night diving around lionfish, you know that these spiny beasts are suckers for a bright white dose of incandescence (see video below; not great quality, but it shows their annoying predilection for your flashlight). And lots of them will stay at it for a long, long least through any no-decompression limits of mine. Restaurateurs could set up shop surfside and, figuratively speaking, let diver-diners with bright torches frog-march their own lionfish dinners into the shallows and the waiting pan of a great chef.

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