Greek chefs urged by conservationists to put venomous lionfish on their menus

Greek chefs urged by conservationists to put venomous lionfish on their menus 1

Greek chefs urged by conservationists to put venomous lionfish on their menus 2

Environmental groups are urging chefs in Greece to start serving venomous lionfish, which is now widely found in Greek waters as they say it’s safe to eat once its fins are removed.

The lionfish made its way from the Red Sea into the Mediterranean Sea via the Suez Canal and over the past few years, it has been widely spotted in Greece, Cyprus, Israel, Turkey, and Lebanon.

Also known as the devil firefish, it is said to be carnivorous and poisonous and can kill and eat a large number of native fish in the rocky areas of the Mediterranean Sea. It also endangers people: Its poisonous spikes cause pain, swelling, inflammation, and blisters if they puncture the skin.

The aggressive species prey on native fish and can reproduce at an alarming rate.

However, according to a report in The Telegraph, environmental groups in Greece and Cyprus are now encouraging divers to catch them and sell or give them to restaurants. The conservationists claim that experts insist that fishermen and chefs, equipped with gloves and knives, can be trained to safely remove them.

According to the conservation groups, it can be grilled, deep-fried, put in a burger or even served up as ceviche and sashimi.

“It’s very tasty and it’s easy to cook,” Anni Mitropoulou, the head of the Cyclades Preservation Fund, which is hoping to educate fishermen, divers, chefs and tourists in the Greek islands to start viewing the species as edible told The Telegraph.

“I’ve had it in a soup, grilled and as sushi and it was delicious. It’s a double pleasure because you know you’re doing something good for the environment.

“If we can create a demand, then it’s a win-win situation – we will remove from the sea a species that damages the environment, fishermen can boost their livelihoods and consumers get a delicious product.

“We need to stop lionfish before it’s too late,” added Mitropoulou.

At an event held on the island of Santorini last month, two well-known Greek chefs were challenged to come up with lionfish dishes.

The Cyclades Preservation Fund is working on an e-book of lionfish recipes, in which the alien species will be matched with typically Greek ingredients.

In Cyprus, contests are being organised in which divers compete to catch lionfish and scientists are raising the possibility of the species’ sharp spines being used to make jewellery.

Lionfish can have a devastating impact on the marine environment.

It is not just the lionfish that is in the sights of conservationists. More than 400 Indo-Pacific species have moved through the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean.

Campaigners hope that many of them, such as the rabbitfish and the blue crab, will also end up on restaurant menus.

*Source: The Telegraph