Florida shoppers can now help in the battle against the invasive Lionfish by buying Lionfish fillets at Whole Foods Markets throughout Florida. The chain hopes to expand beyond Florida markets in the future, with the potential to offer Lionfish in all of their 431 locations nationwide.
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.
Whole lionfish will be sold at $9.99 per pound, and the lionfish’s white meat can be made into ceviche or sauteed. If you’re not sure how to best cook it, just ask – Whole Food employees can also offer cooking tips.