A red lionfish (Pterois volitans). Source: Creative Commons

A red lionfish (Pterois volitans). Source: Creative Commons

The Monterey Bay Aquarium has updated their Seafood Watch recommendations, which recommends seafood is that is fished or farmed in ways that have less impact on the environment. At the top of their list: lionfish. In October, Seafood Watch listed lionfish as a “Best Choice” seafood, stating that consuming them will help prevent the spread of this invasive species in U.S. waters.

Based in part on scores by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch, Whole Foods has announced that they will soon be offering lionfish in their stores on the West Coast, where shoppers can expect to see lionfish offered on the seafood counter in the next six months. They’re already available at three spots in Florida: Sarasota, Boca Raton and Fort Lauderdale, and the chain hopes to eventually expand the sale of lionfish to all 431 locations.

As the lionfish population began to explode back in 2010, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration began encouraging people to hunt and eat Lionfish as a last resort of population control, but it wasn’t until chefs began serving it at restaurants that people actually developed a palate for it. With Whole Foods now on board and the demand increasing for their tasty flesh, some native species in the Caribbean and Atlantic may have a boost in replenishing their numbers while diminishing the massive numbers of Lionfish.

Lionfish first made their appearance off Florida in the early 1990s, but it wasn’t until the 2000s that their populations exploded, and since then the fish have spread from he Florida area to the entire Caribbean and South America. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, they are now a top predator in reef communities and eat indiscriminately, consuming more than 50 species of fish and invertebrates. They can outcompete other ocean species, cause extinctions and alter habitats.

So next time you’re in Whole Foods, check to see if Lionfish are available. This is one species that you can buy and help make a positive impact in the health of our oceans!


Infographic courtesy NOAA and NCCOS