Lionfish – roaring good sushi!

A Menacing Red Lionfish

A Menacing Red Lionfish

Lionfish are a threat to sushi lovers, and to our seafood-loving way of life. But as sushi lovers, we have the unique ability to enjoy some great sushi while helping the situation!

Lionfish are actually any one of several species of fish with elongated, venomous spines, and are usually striped. They all originated in the Pacific, but are now prevalent all over the Caribbean and South Atlantic. They are an invasive, non-native species, without natural predators in our waters.

Lionfish reproduce every 55 days, so their population is growing rapidly, and as it does, the populations of many other fish native to the reefs of the Caribbean are disappearing. They eat many native fishes and crustaceans, and compete for resources.

They’re spreading fast – even the big bad groupers don’t eat them. But we can, since people have gotten quite good at catching, handling and yes, eating these pests. Their venomous spines cause a lot of pain, so use a speargun if you’re hunting them. Chopsticks if you’re eating them.


To be clear, you need not worry about their venom if you’re determined to be a consumption specialist. Like me.

Dorsal spines of lionfish should be clipped before removing scales

Clip the dorsal spines of lionfish before removing scales and fileting

Unlike fugu, that prized but poisonous sushi delicacy popular in Japan, this fish has no neurotoxins in its fleshy tissue. That means you won’t experience a numbing or tingling sensation, only a good feeling that you’re helping to slow down the invasion. That also means eating the fish, raw or cooked, poses no increased physical danger whatsoever.

Sushi anyone? As far as we can tell from reading there are no issues regarding difficult bacteria, as there are with most shark species, for example. They’re lower on the food chain than the super predators like tuna, and their lives are short, so they accumulate less toxins and heavy metals. In fact, Lionfish should be considered safer and healthier than your average sushi fish!

So let’s go Western Atlantic coastal sushi lovers ask your local sushi bars if they can get any lionfish. Then eat it, maybe sliced thin in some ponzu sauce.

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