Floridians encouraged to fish, cook lionfish

Fishing captains are gathering in Sarasota to catch invasive lionfish.

ST. PETE BEACH, FL (WFLA) — There’s a nationwide push to serve up more lionfish to get the invasive species out of Florida waters because they are ruining our ecosystem.

“Lionfish can eat a lot, they can swallow very large things sometimes fish that are half of their body weight,” said Zachary Ostroff, curator of Secrets of the Sea, at the Guy Harvey Outpost on St. Pete Beach.

The Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation strongly believes in supporting efforts to educate the public, and there is a big push to do just that in Tampa Bay.

A big focus at the Guy Harvey Outpost is to teach people about the invasive lionfish, and that includes educating people how to fish for, buy, and cook the invasive species.

“I would say it’s a cross between a flounder and a mangrove snapper,” said Chef Aaron Schwetzer of Rum Fish Grill.

The restaurant at Guy Harvey Outpost puts lionfish on the menu whenever it’s available.

“We are trying to show people that this is a safe fish to eat and the more we eat, the less lionfish will eat our local fish, like Grouper,” said Ostroff.

Guy Harvey even hosts a Lionfish Roundup, where divers and anglers head miles off the coast of St. Pete Beach to hunt down the elusive fish. If you would like to join in on the next roundup visit www.reefmonitoring.org/lionfish-safari.html

Related: Whole Foods now selling invasive lionfish in Florida stores

For chefs at home, here’s a recipe you might want to try the next time you spot lionfish at your local supermarket:

Jerked Lionfish with Red Beans and Rice, serves 2

2 8-oz Lionfish Filets
¼ cup of jerk rub (store bought, Jamaican brand preferred)
½ cup pineapple salsa
1 cup red beans and rice
¼ cup sliced green onion

Place fish over grill, to lightly char the fish until cooked through. Approximately 4-6 minutes total cook time. Place pan on top of fish to add weight while cooking.

Pineapple Salsa

1 cup fresh pineapple medium diced
½ cup Poblano pepper cut into julienne
½ cup red onion cut into julienne
½ cup red bell pepper cut into julienne
2 Tbsp. red raspberry vinegar
2 Tbsp. honey
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 lime juiced
1 Tbsp. fresh ginger minced
¼ habanero seeded and chopped finely
1 tsp ground allspice

Cut ingredients as noted. Combine all ingredients and set aside.

Red Beans and Rice

2 cup cooked red beans
1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh garlic
½ cup Poblano pepper small diced
½ cup yellow onion small diced
1 tsp ground cumin
1 ½ cups chicken stock
2 bay leaves
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 ½ cup cooked jasmine rice

Heat butter in small sauce pot.
Sauté garlic, onions and peppers together until onions are translucent.
Add cumin, bay leaves and chicken stock.
Simmer for 15 minutes.
Portion the rice between two plates.
Top with red beans, then fish and finish with freshly made pineapple salsa

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